Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg may debut AI assistant this month

Think running your home using artificial intelligence is the stuff of sci-fi fantasy? Facebook’s billionaire founder may be ready to make it a reality

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 September, 2016, 8:31pm
UPDATED : Friday, 02 September, 2016, 5:38pm

This month, Mark Zuckerberg hopes to offer the world a glimpse at his pet project, a face- and voice-recognition system that allows the Facebook chief executive to command his home environment much like the fictional Tony Stark orders around Jarvis in Iron Man.

And his wife, Priscilla Chan, might not be thrilled.

“I got it to this point where now I can control the lights, I can control the gates, I can control the temperature – much to the chagrin of my wife, who now cannot control the temperature because it is programmed to only listen to my voice,” Zuckerberg told a packed audience in Rome, his latest town hall session.

“I’ll give her access once I’m done,” he joked.

The artificial intelligence software powering the system – part of a personal challenge Zuckerberg set for himself earlier in the year – is a by-product of Facebook’s strategic mission to improve the social network’s ability to better identify faces in photos and videos that are relevant to users.

AI is part of the company’s three-pillar vision, which includes developing augmented- and virtual- reality devices (Facebook owns Oculus Rift) and extending access to the internet far and wide (the company’s Internet.org project aims to use lasers and drones to extend connectivity to remote areas).

Those plans suffered a major setback on Thursday when SpaceX’s latest mission – which was carrying Facebook’s Amos 6 satellite – went up in flames during a routine rocket test at the Cape Canaveral in Florida.

SpaceX rocket explodes on launch pad - and blows up a key Facebook plan, too

AI is also on the front burner at companies such as Google, Amazon and Apple, all of which hope to leverage the capabilities of modern computers to create a non-dystopian future where people get help with personal and professional tasks from machines. Many experts predict that self-driving cars will be the first AI-powered robots to interact with humans on a mass scale.

Zuckerberg, who during his Italian holiday also met with Pope Francis, told the crowd that his front gate is programmed to open as soon as it detects his voice or face.

“There’s some state-of-the-art AI in there,” he said. “It’s been awesome to get a chance to work with our engineers at Facebook and really see on a day-to-day experience what they’re doing and how far advanced the work is that they’re doing. It’s been a really cool experience so far, and I’m looking forward to showing it off [in September].”