Facebook has announced the cancellation of its annual F8 developer conference, citing concerns about the emerging coronavirus health crisis.
Next to Facebook's annual Oculus Connect event, the F8 Developer Conference is the largest and best event to find out about augmented reality and VR development from the software and social media giant, which makes its cancellation specificity significant for the consuming computing space.
"Given the growing concern for COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the personal portion of F8 2020," said Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, Facebook's director of developer platforms and programs, in a statement.
"This was a tough call to make ̵1; F8 is an incredibly important event for Facebook and it is one of our favorite ways to celebrate you all from all over the world – but we must prioritize our health and safety for our developer partners, employees and everyone who helps put F8 on. We use red other ways to keep the personal part of F8, but it's important for us to host an inclusive event and it didn't feel right to have F8 without our international developers present. "
The move from Facebook follows the interruption of the massively participating Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, Spain, in February (where Microsoft launched HoloLens 2 last year). In recent days, several large companies, including Sony Unity and Facebook, have chosen to cancel their participation at the annual Game Developers Conference, which, as of this writing, is still scheduled to begin on March 16 in San Francisco.
Just before Facebook was announced on Thursday, Microsoft's Game Stack team announced that it would also withdraw from the Game Developer Conference.
"After a careful review of guidance from global health authorities and from an abundance of caution, we have made the difficult decision to withdraw from attending the Game Developers Conference 2020 in San Francisco," reads the company's statement. "The health and safety of players, developers, employees and partners around the world is our top priority. Especially since the world is experiencing growing health risks associated with coronavirus (COVID-19)."
However, Microsoft will move at least some of its meetings to digital only from March 16 to 18, in addition to development sessions that viewers can stream online.
Facebook's F8 event should have started May 5 in San Jose, California. Given Facebook's long lead time in terms of the event and its decision to cancel it today, many other major tech conferences that host AR and VR companies are now in the limelight. These include Game Developers Conference, South by Southwest, which begins March 13 in Austin, Texas and AWE, scheduled for May 27 in Santa Clara, California, just a few weeks after the start of Facebook's now canceled event.
And while Apple's annual WWDC event usually doesn't start until June , when some experts hope that the spread of coronavirus has been put together, the event is close enough for Apple to also consider its options as the events unfold.
On the upside, this could also be the perfect opportunity for Facebook to showcase the power of its AR and VR tools to hold a virtual presence conference, so developers and end users can meet via avatars and virtual screens. Such an effort would be a massive commitment, even in virtual space, but it could also serve as the best demonstration of why Facebook's AR and VR platforms are the future.
The technology sector is, in addition to conference interruptions, beginning to suffer from the strain of coronavirus as China is an important part of the engulfing computer hardware supply chain such as Nreal and Apple's parts iPhone.