Facebook launched its first innovation lab in Pakistan on Wednesday at the National Incubation Centre at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS).
The lab will focus on facilitating developers and startups and be a learning platform to connect with mentors to learn about new technology. It will be a physical space where entrepreneurs can come together to take part in workshops, seminars and learn new skills to develop innovative products.
“Facebook aims to provide the best experience for startups worldwide. Our strong belief is that the future of technology is within the community,” Jason Lin, Facebook's programme manager, said at the launch. “We have seen a lot of potential in Asia Pacific and we want to see more success stories.”
Facebook’s Head of Community Affairs Beth Ann shared that VR is an emerging technology that has become mainstream. Facebook will train startups so that they can create innovations, she said, adding that they will organise workshops and invite experts and mentors to connect with the community.
“Virtual reality and augmented reality is the future,” Facebook Product Designer Maheen Sohail said. Facebook is opting for a ‘people first approach’ and has a 10-year vision to achieve the goal. She gave the example of the Beat Saber game that people play through VR technology. She said VR is not just about gaming. Headsets are getting lighter and cheaper, she said, adding that you can use them anywhere, as they are portable.
Sohail said she was impressed by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, who is using VR to tell phenomenal stories.
You get to connect with people through social VR and be whatever or whoever you want, she said. They are also working on avatars that look like real people. You will be able to create 3D rendered people who can act as virtual assistants and help automate things.
She showed a live example of a real person talking and their avatars on the other side imitating them. The 3D rendered person’s face was similar to the real person’s.
How is VR going to change the way we work?
VR can be used to learn and teach as well. Doctors are already using it to learn about medicine and it is not that expensive.
It is being used to teach courses in classrooms. “The fact that kids can go to a place as opposed to just learning from a textbook is phenomenal,” she said.
It is going to revolutionize the way we think about museums, said Sohail, adding that if you live far away from a museum, you can still visit it and explore things through a virtual platform.
You can learn new languages and experience a public event while sitting at your house, she said, adding that you can also get the best seats at any stadium in the world.
You can meet people at anytime and anywhere you want, said Sohail. “Imagine having meetings with anyone in the world and not worrying about buying plane tickets to meet them.”
Walmart is using the technology to train its employees for big events such as Black Friday, she explained.
You can experience not only what a car would be like, but also create the car. BMW and Volkswagen are creating cars before actually spending money to manufacture it, she said. “We are creating a prototype to help you build your virtual home, even if it doesn’t exist in real life. You can travel back to the places you grew up in,” she said.
The NIC Lahore is a first of its kind incubation platform launched under public-private partnership by the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom, IGNITE, Fatima Ventures and LUMS.