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Facebook wants to take on Alexa and Google Home with its own virtual assistant

In Spike Jonze’s critically acclaimed movie “Her, Joaquin Phoenix’s character Theodore falls in love with an operating-system-slash-chatbot called Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). The film, of course, highlights how artificial intelligence can impact our personal lives for better or for worse.

“Her” may be set in the near future, but our present-day virtual assistants — Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant — are still nowhere near the level of interaction afforded by Jonze’s fictional world. They may seem like they’re sophisticated and sentient sometimes, but nope, they’re still too basic, too rote, too dumb. Artificial intelligence is simply not there yet.

Currently, Amazon and Google may be in a virtual arms race to imbue your toaster with self-awareness, but wait, another tech giant, Facebook, hopes to join the fray, too. Can it deliver the next big breakthrough in artificial intelligence?

Hello Facebook, do you dream of electric sheep?

Facebook is joining the smart virtual assistant game by developing its own artificial intelligence chips, according to a new report from the Financial Times.

The social media giant may be a little late to the party, but it’s betting that the future of artificial intelligence will need highly specialized and dramatically faster hardware for increasingly more complex tasks.

Among the company’s ambitions is to create a digital assistant that has enough smarts to hold actual conversations with you on any topic. But knowing how Facebook tracks its users relentlessly, this can be creepy, you say? Well, that’s all in, erm, the AI of the beholder.

Another area where Facebook is planning on using these supercharged AI chips is in policing its social network. Curating and moderating content, especially live videos, is a constant headache for Facebook and smarter bots may help its human counterparts flag questionable material quickly. So goodbye, badly framed selfie “nose hair” live videos? We can only hope.

Credit: Giphy

‘ASIC’ chips on its shoulders

Big tech’s pursuit of more powerful specialized chips that are designed to handle increasingly complex artificial intelligence tasks with greater efficiency is no secret. Apple, Amazon, Google and a bunch of smaller startups are all investing heavily to push AI computing hardware further than before.

For its part, Facebook is hoping to work with a number of chip companies to achieve its lofty ambitions. In fact, it just announced a partnership with Intel last month to develop new chip designs. However, the company is also hoping to develop its very own ASIC (Application-Specific Integrated Circuit) chips to complement its AI projects.

This is quite interesting because aside from owning social media and messaging services like Instagram and WhatsApp, Facebook is also developing emerging technologies with its other properties including virtual reality with Oculus, face recognition with Face.com and speech-recognition/translation with Jibbigo.

Aside from “Her,” have you seen the movie “Ready Player One?” Combined with its advanced AI plans, is Facebook actually aspiring to be that movie’s OASIS in real-life? Just saying.

But what do you think? Will Facebook, for one, make us welcome our new robot overlords? Drop us a comment!

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