RCS’s Facebook Now Brings User-Shared Data to Life in Real Time

With more than 1.5 billion active users updating statuses, posting pictures, and liking links each month, Facebook hosts an astounding amount of data at any given time. When the social-media giant looked for a way to make sense of the data onslaught, it partnered with Reality Check Systems (RCS) to create Facebook Now.

Facebook Now curates Facebook data, enabling a controller to select the specific data that they want to display. That data is synthesized and transformed into an on-screen graphic visualization, all in real time.

Facebook Now, created by Reality Check Systems, synthesizes selected Facebook data into an on-screen graphic.

Facebook Now, created by Reality Check Systems, synthesizes selected Facebook data into an on-screen graphic.

“It’s a full-screen automated layout of their data that’s culled from the world of Facebook,” explains Jeff Heimbold, head of business development, RCS. “The intelligence for the data comes from Facebook APIs, and we turn that API information into visuals. … It’s a carousel of the world of Facebook — a snapshot at any moment in time, all the time, in real time.”

Facebook collaborated with RCS’s Public Content Solutions team to bring Facebook Now to life. RCS was able to take advantage of Facebook’s Media Solutions Program, which recently introduced tools for broadcasters that provide access to data from the social network.

Facebook Now can be configured to show the buzziest keywords or trendiest hashtags in real time.

Facebook Now can be configured to show the buzziest keywords or trendiest hashtags in real time.

Currently, the custom-built application runs in Facebook’s New York and Menlo Park, CA, offices on displays powered by RCS’s Ignite solution, which combines real-time data and breaking news with customized 3D graphics, and Vizrt technology. The displays can be configured using a variety of modifiable templates to bring real-time Facebook data to life, including the most-liked posts, most-commented-on trends, most-popular Instagram photos, and much more.

“It’s really unique and different from a traditional news broadcast,” says RCS Producer Seve Sanchez. “This isn’t a producer selecting approved stuff; this is really crowd-sourced stuff based on popularity within Facebook — what people are posting about, what they’re talking about — and that’s driving the selection for what gets displayed.”

Although the technology currently exists for Facebook’s in-house data visualization, RCS believes that Facebook Now could find a niche within the broadcast industry. Often, say Heimbold and Sanchez, social-media strategy in television broadcasting boils down to a producer’s handpicking a Facebook post — often from a celebrity or otherwise notable source — to add to the broadcast, rather than showing a real-time ticker of the most popular posts as they gain likes or shares.

RCS took advantage of Facebook’s Media Solutions Program, with tools enabling broadcasters to provide access to data from the social network.

RCS took advantage of Facebook’s Media Solutions Program, with tools enabling broadcasters to provide access to data from the social network.

With Facebook Now, users can configure the settings to show the buzziest keywords or trendiest hashtags in real time — showing not just the news but how people are responding. Because the future of Facebook Now in broadcast is unclear, Facebook and RCS have extended their partnership to continue developing the application.

“Instead of traditional highlight-based or video-based clips that happened eight or 12 hours ago, this is what’s happening right now in real time all the time,” says Heimbold. “They want this to be the baseline, the benchmark that we build upon and eventually make something that’s the equivalent of modern newsgathering. It’s not just newsgathering; it’s how you visualize how masses of people visualize news in real time.”