Facebook parent Meta Platforms is building a digital voice assistant to help people interact hands-free with physical devices, such as the company’s Portal video-calling device and, eventually, augmented-reality glasses.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company is building the assistant in preparation for the so-called metaverse, a more immersive version of the Internet that will let people interact online through virtual and AR glasses. Digital assistants will need to “learn the way humans do” to help users navigate this new online world, Zuckerberg said during a presentation on Wednesday.
“When we have glasses on our faces, that will be the first time an AI system will be able to really see the world from our perspective — see what we see, hear what we hear and more,” Zuckerberg added, saying he hopes to eventually build AI assistants that can “move between virtual and physical worlds”. The AI assistant doesn’t have a name, but Meta is calling the effort “Project CAIRaok”.
AI technology that can learn and anticipate human behaviour will be at the centre of Zuckerberg’s proposed metaverse — in part because people will eventually access it hands-free by wearing a pair of smart glasses. While the metaverse concept is still undefined, Meta video demos show people moving around digital spaces and interacting with others as avatars. In a new video on Wednesday, Zuckerberg showed off a new technology called “Builder Bot”, which will let people create a virtual world by simply describing things they want it to include.
In most cases, these technologies are years away from being publicly available. Meta is testing its AI voice assistant on Portal devices, but only for simple uses, like setting reminders. The company previously launched an “open-source chatbot” called BlenderBot, and a few years ago pushed heavily into messaging bots. You can already use a Meta-created voice assistant for some basic commands on Portal, like making a call or asking about the weather. But most voice interactions on Portal are done through Amazon.com’s Alexa.
AI voice assistants are not unique to Meta. Apple’s voice assistant, Siri, comes loaded onto its iPhone and iPad devices. Amazon’s Alexa has also become a household staple for many people.