Updated: April 19, 2019 6:55:30 am
The social media giant has been working on this new initiative since early 2018, the report said, adding that the effort is coming out of the company’s augmented reality and virtual reality group – a division that works on hardware, including the company’s virtual reality Oculus headsets.
A Facebook team, based in Washington, has been spearheading the effort to build a new AI assistant, the report said citing two former employees of the company who have recently left.
The report further states that the effort is being led by Ira Snyder, who is the director of AR/VR and Facebook Assistant. The team has been contacting vendors in smart speaker supply chain, it said, citing two people familiar.
According to an official response, Facebook has told Reuters that its AI assistant “may work across our family of AR/VR products including Portal, Oculus and future products.”
According to research firm eMarketer, Facebook assistant faces stiff competition. Amazon and Google are far ahead in the smart speaker market with 67 per cent and 30 per cent shares in the US in 2018, respectively.
To recall, Facebook released an AI assistant for its Messenger app called ‘M’ in 2015. It was supposed to help users with smart suggestions, but the project depended heavily on the help of humans and never gained traction. Facebook ultimately stopped the project last year.
In November, Facebook began selling its Portal video chat device, which lets the users place video calls through Facebook Messenger. A user has to say “Hey Portal” to initiate simple commands, however, the device also comes equipped with Amazon’s Alexa to handle complex tasks.
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