In these difficult times when so many people around the world are required to self-isolate at home, keeping in touch remotely has never been so important, which is why Facebook is ramping up its video-calling features across several platforms.

The main development is a service called Messenger Rooms, a group video call facility that can accommodate up to 50 people, who can join straight from their phone or computer with no need to download an app.

Even those without a Facebook account can join in as long as they are invited, although the room creator will be able to remove guests at any time and there are means to report any violations of Facebook’s community standards.

Stan Chudnovsky, VP of Messenger at Facebook, outlined details in a company blog post in which he emphasised that Rooms has been developed with privacy and safety “top of mind” so that participants can feel comfortable connecting with their friends.

He also suggested that Rooms can be an easy way for users to “hang out” with like-minded people with shared interests – for example, a book club – and that a host of AI-powered effects would add an element of fun.

These include 14 new camera filters and immersive 360-degree backgrounds that can give the impression users are connecting on the beach, say, or from a luxury apartment or even while “stay-at-home camping”.

Chudnovsky added that Messenger Rooms will roll out in some countries this week before expanding to the rest of the world in coming weeks, including the US, and that more features will be added over time.

Elsewhere, Facebook announced that its WhatsApp messaging service will now host eight people instead of four and that there will be new ways to access live-streaming services, such as Facebook Live and Instagram, to make it easier to take part in group activities, ranging from workout classes to cooking lessons.

In addition, the “Live With” feature is returning to Facebook, allowing users to invite another person into their Facebook Live broadcast.

And with new ways of going live from Facebook Portal to Pages and Groups, users and businesses can start to create more interactive content on their Portal for their communities and customers.

Sourced from Facebook; additional content by WARC staff