Facebook parent company Meta Platforms Inc. 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.
Chief Executive Officer 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 allow people to interact online through virtual glasses and AR. Digital assistants will need to “learn the way humans do” to help users navigate this new online world, Zuckerberg said during a presentation Wednesday.
“When we have glasses on our faces, it will be the first time that an AI system will actually be able to see the world from our perspective: see what we see, hear what we hear, and more,” Zuckerberg added, saying he hopes to eventually build assistants from AI that can “move between virtual and physical worlds.” The AI assistant is unnamed, but Meta calls the effort “CAIRaoke Project.”
Artificial intelligence technology that can learn and anticipate human behavior will be at the center of Zuckerberg’s proposed metaverse, in part because people will finally access it hands-free using a pair of smart glasses. While the concept of a metaverse is not yet defined, Meta’s video demos show people moving through digital spaces and interacting with others as avatars. In a new video on Wednesday, Zuckerberg showed off a new technology called the “Builder Bot,” which will allow people to create a virtual world simply by describing the 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 released an “open source chatbot” called BlenderBot, and pushed messaging bots heavily a few years ago. You can already use a voice assistant created by Meta for some basic commands in Portal, like making a call or asking about the weather. But most of the voice interactions in Portal are done through Alexa from Amazon.com Inc.
AI voice assistants are not unique to Meta. Apple Inc.’s voice assistant, Siri, comes preloaded on your iPhone and iPad devices. Amazon Inc.’s Alexa has also become a household staple for many people.