Mark Zuckerberg is planning to build himself an AI (Artificial Intelligence) in 2016, the Facebook founder wrote in a status update, saying that he had set himself the goal as a challenge for the new year. His plan is to build a "simple" AI which would help run his house and his work – "kind of like Jarvis out of Iron Man".
It will assist him, his wife, and daughter Max. He wrote:
"I'm going to start by exploring what technology is already out there. Then I'll start teaching it to understand my voice to control everything in our home -- music, lights, temperature and so on. I'll teach it to let friends in by looking at their faces when they ring the doorbell. I'll teach it to let me know if anything is going on in Max's room that I need to check on when I'm not with her."facebook.com
His announcement comes as Facebook is in the midst of AI initiatives such as building an assistant through its Messenger app.
While he didn't describe how exactly the AI would work or how he would build it, it seems that it will revolve around video cameras that can monitor and recognise important changes in the environment, and faces in particular. Among its future tasks:
- Watch and recognize for any changes in the room of Zuckerberg’s infant daughter.
- Use facial recognition to set the temperature of a room based on a person’s personal preference. Mark points out that he prefers rooms colder than his wife does. forbes.com
What about the technology required to build such a thing? Well, as Mark noted on his post, a lot of the technology already exists. For example, voice recognition software is already widely available.
Existing home-automation tools from companies such as Google’s Nest, Phillips and Samsung all allow a fairly high level of control of a “smart home”, and can be paired with voice control software, including that from Apple, Amazon and Massachusetts-based specialists Nuance.theguardian.com
So is the software for recognising faces
In fact, Facebook has been leading the way on that front.
It claims that it has software which can correctly identify human faces 97.25% of the time – humans can only manage slightly better, at 97.53%.
So when Zuckerberg says “I’ll teach it to let friends in by looking at their faces when they ring the doorbell,” he knows he can do that with existing technology.
Moreover, the home automation system that the Facebook founder envisions isn't that far off already being a reality, the Guardian notes
In September, Samsung launched a hub for its SmartThings connected home system which lets users tie together a disparate collection of sensors in their house into a connected “internet of things”. Heating can talk to the door to turn on when you come home, lights can connect to the security camera to turn on if an intruder is detected, and a sleep sensor can dim the lights in the rest of the house once everyone in the building is asleep.
Amazon has also pushed its way into the same area, with its Alexa voice control system. Built into the Echo, a combined speaker and microphone which is designed to sit in the middle of the living room, it continuously listens for commands. It can be told to control music, share information like the weather or sporting fixtures, and control simple internet of things devices in its own right. Naturally, being Amazon, it can also buy things for you in seconds.
However, it would be interesting to see if, after so many years spent away from a day-to-day engineering role, Mark Zuckerberg still has the tech chops to pull this off. Good luck, Zuck!
On the other hand, making an actual strong AI – one of human-level intelligence – might be a bit tricky and also might be dangerous: