We just published a huge interview with Mark Zuckerberg. It's a long and in-depth conversation that revolves around the successful first flight of Facebook's solar-powered drone, Aquila, and goes on to discuss Facebook's plans for the next 10 years — from virtual reality, to promoting 5G internet, to Zuckerberg's toast-making robot (yes, really). You can read the whole thing right here, but we wanted to pull out a handful of big points Zuckerberg made throughout the course of his conversation with The Verge's Casey Newton.
The key point, and the one thing you really need to accept to understanding where Facebook is going, is that Zuckerberg sees internet access as key to making his company — and society — stronger. The internet creates jobs, brings people together, can educate those in underserved communities, and even allow for things like remote surgery to save lives. It'll probably also make Facebook some money, too. If you take all of that as his starting point, the rest of Facebook's initiatives begin to make sense.
Facebook's biggest project in this realm is the creation of drones that can beam down internet access from the sky. The plan is to use them in remote areas, with the goal of bringing another billion people online, if not more. The plan can sound ostentatious, but an unorthodox solution like internet-connected drones is a necessity, Zuckerberg argues. "If you want to [connect] these 1.6 billion people who don’t have a network," he says, "it can’t be the same solutions today that aren’t affordable for telcos."
Zuckerberg says the drones Facebook is working on will be cheap to build and capable for flying for 90 days at a time. The cost will also be distributed, since Facebook doesn't plan on actually building a fleet of drones of its own. Instead, "What we want to do is prove that this works, and then figure out ways to license the technology or give it away" to communications companies, governments, or nonprofits, Zuckerberg says.
"It’s not something you necessarily expect Facebook to do, because we’re not an aerospace company," he says. "But I guess we’re becoming one."
Parallel to that, Facebook is working on the next generation of things for people to do over the internet, particularly once faster 5G speeds arrive. Zuckerberg sees virtual and augmented reality as the future, establishing a "new major computer paradigm" that'll be "even more natural" than using our phones.
Some uses of VR will be work and health focused, but others may be as simple as bringing people together more intimately than a video can. Virtual reality will come first — it's already here, to some extent — and augmented reality will follow. But Zuckerberg believes it'll likely be five to 10 years before we have an AR device that does for augmented reality what the Oculus Rift is doing for virtual reality today.
Oh, and as for that robot toaster — it's part of Zuckerberg's newly automated home, which has apparently inspired him to speak like Morpheus. "The real question is not how it makes me toast," but "when to make me toast," he says.