Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has created an artificial intelligence home assistant, called ‘Jarvis’, named after the AI system in “Iron Man.” The assistant can understand both voice commands and text messages, operate home appliances such as the toaster, turn on lights, recognize the faces of visitors, and even entertain Zuckerberg’s toddler with music or Mandarin lessons. In Facebook post on Monday, Zuckerberg described his process of creating his project, which he says was started “to learn about the state of artificial intelligence — where we’re further along than people realize and where we’re still a long ways off.”
Zuckerberg spent 100 hours on the project, which he says turned out to be easier than he expected, commenting that his challenge of running 365 miles in 2016 actually took more time. He said he took the opportunity to experiment with AI technology at a time when voice-activated AI assistants such as Amazon’s Echo and Google Home are finding their stride in the market. Amazon’s Echo even sold out online ahead of the Christmas holiday.
Zuckerberg described in his post what sets Jarvis apart from existing AI assistants:
“At this point, I mostly just ask Jarvis to ‘play me some music’ and by looking at my past listening patterns, it mostly nails something I’d want to hear. If it gets the mood wrong, I can just tell it, for example, “that’s not light, play something light”, and it can both learn the classification for that song and adjust immediately. It also knows whether I’m talking to it or Priscilla is, so it can make recommendations based on what we each listen to. In general, I’ve found we use these more open-ended requests more frequently than more specific asks. No commercial products I know of do this today, and this seems like a big opportunity.”
He went on to describe how he plans to build on the success of the project, planning to create an Android app for Jarvis, and connect the AI to a wider variety of appliances in his home. According to Zuckerberg, the ultimate challenge is “to build a system that could learn completely new skills on its own.” He also added that the project was an opportunity to get back to writing code, which he said he has little opportunity to do as CEO of Facebook. He said that the project allowed him to learn what it’s like to be an engineer at his company, which he found “impressive.”