MASTERCLASSING

Facebook is reportedly developing an AI voice assistant

Alyssa Clementi

Facebook is developing a voice assistant that would compete with Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and the Google Assistant, undisclosed sources told CNBC. The project has been under wraps since the beginning of 2018 and is being created by Facebook’s augmented reality and virtual reality group.

Two former Facebook employees reported the project’s development team is currently based out of Redmond, Washington, and is being overseen by Ira Snyder, director of AR/VR and Facebook Assistant. Not many details are known, but the two sources did confirm the team has already begun reaching out to vendors in the smart speaker market.

It’s unclear how Facebook plans to implement the voice assistant, but speculation has focused on the company’s Portal video chat smart speakers or its Oculus headsets, which are used for virtual reality experiences.

Facebook attempted to bring an AI assistant to its Messenger app in 2015, titled “M”, but dissolved the project after it showed little promise or popularity. The smart speaker market is already dominated by Amazon and Google, with 67 per cent and 30 per cent shares in the US in 2018, respectively, according to eMarketer.