There is a Facebook F8 developers’ conference starting April 30th in California, where the future of technology with Facebook will be explored and no doubt new announcements will be made. If you are into this type of thing, it can be streamed on their dedicated website, with on-demand videos as well, but be warned, you have to consent to Facebook’s terms of data storage, which may mean you become part of the AI learning process. https://www.f8.com/watch
So, the reason sites like CNBC, Forbes and TheVerge are focusing on this is the expected release of a new Facebook AI Voice Assistant. Is this a move to rival the dominance in this space by rival companies e.g. Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and the Google Assistant? But the future of this AI is not yet totally clear, as Facebook may be looking to develop this into their growing hardware infrastructure, not necessarily the home smart speaker market, which is reportedly shared out at 67% to Amazon, and 30% to Google in the U.S. market.
Emarketer.com did some analysis on this market in December last and report the following:
Amazon Echo will capture 63.3% of smart speaker users in 2019, while Google Home will account for 31.0%. Smaller players, such as Sonos One and Apple HomePod, will take 12.0%. Amazon’s share will shrink through 2020, while those of its rivals will grow. (Note, there is overlap among the brands, as some people use more than one device.)
“Google has the Home Mini and Home Hub to compete with Amazon’s Echo Dot and Echo Show, and both the Apple HomePod and Facebook Portal will experience their first holiday season this year,” said forecasting analyst Jaimie Chung.
Facebook already has a history with a virtual assistant, called “M”, which was introduced to automatically complete tasks for users, such as purchase items, arrange gift deliveries, reserve restaurants etc. It worked (discontinued in Early 2018) inside the Messenger IM and it used algorithms to determine what the user wants. If M did not understand, a human took over the conversation, unbeknownst to the user. This allowed M to learn. In January 2018, Facebook announced that they would be discontinuing M, stating that what they learned from M would be applied to other artificial intelligence projects at Facebook.
According to CNBC, Facebook has been working on this new initiative since early 2018, creating a voice assistant to rival the likes of Amazon, Apple & Google, with The tech company’s effort is coming out of its augmented reality and virtual reality group, a division that works on hardware, including the company’s virtual reality Oculus headsets. That team has been contacting vendors in the smart speaker supply chain, according to two people familiar.
It was then later confirmed by a Facebook spokesperson to TheVerge, that “We are working to develop voice and AI assistant technologies that may work across our family of AR/VR [augmented reality/virtual reality] products including Portal, Oculus and future products,”
Another project which we could learn more on is the N.Y. Times report of Facebook’s cryptocurrency project which is expected to allow users to send money via WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. The company is working on a coin that users of WhatsApp could send to friends and family instantly. The Facebook project is far enough along that the social networking giant has held conversations with cryptocurrency exchanges about selling the Facebook coin to consumers. In a statement, Facebook did not directly address its work on a digital coin. We shall see.