Less than a week ago in San Jose, California a conference named F8 attracted thousands of technology developers. For many in India it may have come across as a conference for geeks where future technologies were showcased and discussed which may not make much sense to us today. One reason why we in India should pay heed to what was discussed there is because it was a Facebook developer conference and India happens to be its second largest market. Unlike the alleged comments by Snapchat CEO who called Indians poor, the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg feels India is crucial to their continued success. With more than 200 million Indians on Facebook, it is set to become the largest market beating the home market of United States in 2017.

But it is time to look beyond the numbers that any social platform or tech conferences talk about. The F8 conference has put the spotlight on the future which is no longer very far from the present. Three important developments were showcased at the summit which can have huge implications for India in all spheres, be it economic development, politics, health or education.

First, the speed at which companies like Facebook and Tesla are pushing the boundaries to connect the human brain with the computer. The F8 conference teased the audience by posing the question what if we could type directly from our brain. This is no longer science fiction, this is a real life project in Facebook headed by a woman called Regina Dugan who was the former head at US Defence Advanced Research Program or DARPA which is where the Internet was born. Letting your thoughts translate into words on a screen could open a whole new world for policy makers & citizens be it for governance, education or health. Imagine the number of patients with speech impairment or brain related diseases who can once again communicate. If the speed of brain typing is 5 times faster as Facebook claims then just imagine how the education sector will advance in producing research. Of course there will be a whole range of ethical issues attached which need to be looked at, but the positive implications and possibilities of what is now called the ‘direct brain interface’ technology is far greater than the pitfalls. A related development was having the ability to hear through your skin. Once again if you go beyond the geekiness of the hardware and software, you can immediately see the benefit to millions of deaf people. From a social network app we are now in a space where technology, science and health have converged.

Second, knowing fully well that videos are a far more powerful tool to connect people than mere words, Facebook is pushing the limits on what a camera can do. If you think FB live videos are cool then the 360 degree videos are just the beginning of a new revolution. According to Mark Zuckerburg, it seems he wants the camera to become a platform on which all other developers can build on to launch new products. Just like the world of apps on your smartphone. But just break this down a bit further and you will be able to imagine a world where you can immerse yourself into any place in the world through augmented reality built through videos which transport you into any place you want. Once again, technologies like these are not alien to India, there are NGOs using basic augmented reality to give skills training to people in sectors like nursing. Imagine the world of opportunity for entrepreneurs in skills training who can train anyone anywhere on any career using advanced augmented reality videos.

Finally, the concept of virtual spaces may have caught the attention of geeks more than the non techie crowds. But this offering in the area of social virtual reality is one more way Facebook may be pushing the boundaries of technology. By letting you create your own virtual world with real world friends in an online space, the tech major may be beginning the movement to merge the two, that of the offline world with online world. While this may seem gimmicky, the future application of this could be unlimited. Just imagine if Hologram campaign speeches of Narendra Modi was the coolest feature of 2014 campaign, what the possibilities are of FB Spaces in the 2019 campaign to connect with voters. No wonder politicians like to stay on top of how the communication technologies are advancing.

Clearly the F8 summit in San Jose is a good reminder of how fast technology is moving. For us in India, it is a huge opportunity to embrace the changes that such advances brings with it because many of the problems such advances claim they can solve reside in India. If there is one thing the Prime Minister is keen to leverage it is technology which can help address several issues close to his heart. From cleanliness to employment, legacy issues won’t allow him to fix it the normal way. The only way forward is disrupting the existing models using tech advances and building scale to fix the problem. And the F8 conference ideas did showcase some of them.

This article was originally published in the Times of India.