This content is not available in your region

Facebook's Meta unveils AI projects aimed at building metaverse future

Facebook's Meta unveils AI projects aimed at building the metaverse
Facebook's Meta unveils AI projects aimed at building the metaverse   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2022
By Reuters

By Elizabeth Culliford

-Facebook-owner Meta is working on artificial intelligence research to generate worlds through speech, improve how people chat to voice assistants and translate between languages, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Wednesday, as he sketched out key steps to building the metaverse.

Zuckerberg is betting that the metaverse, a futuristic idea of virtual environments where users can work, socialize and play, will be the successor to the mobile internet.

“The key to unlocking a lot of these advances is AI,” he said, speaking at the company’s live-streamed “Inside the Lab” event.

Zuckerberg said Meta was working on a new class of generative AI models that will allow people to describe a world and generate aspects of it. In a prerecorded demo, Zuckerberg showcased an AI concept called Builder Bot, where he appeared as a legless 3D avatar on an island and gave speech commands to create a beach and then add clouds, trees and even a picnic blanket.

“As we advance this technology further, you’ll be able to create nuanced worlds to explore and share experiences with others, with just your voice,” said Zuckerberg. He did not set a timeline for these advancements or give more details on how Builder Bot works.

He said Meta was working on AI research to allow people to have more natural conversations with voice assistants, a step towards how people will communicate with AI in the metaverse. He said the company’s Project CAIRaoke was “a fully end-to-end neural model for building on-device assistants.”

Zuckerberg also announced that Meta was working on a universal speech translator, aiming to provide instant speech-to-speech translation across all languages. The company previously set a goal for its AI system to translate all written languages.

The social media company, which recently lost a third of its market value after a dismal earnings report, has invested heavily in its new focus on building the metaverse and changed its name to reflect this ambition. This month Meta reported a 2021 net loss of $10.2 billion from its Reality Labs, the company’s augmented and virtual reality business.

On Wednesday, Zuckerberg said Meta was preparing for how AI could interpret and predict the types of interactions that would occur in the metaverse, by working on “self-supervised learning” – where AI is given raw data rather than being trained on lots of labeled data.

Zuckerberg said Meta was also working on egocentric data, which involves seeing worlds from a first-person perspective. He said it had brought together a global consortium of 13 universities and labs to work on the largest ever egocentric dataset, called Ego4D.

Some of the projects Meta announced on Wednesday, such as Project CAIRaoke and a tool to make algorithms such as the ranking system for its Instagram feed more transparent, follow similar innovations announced in recent years by rivals such as Alphabet Inc’s Google.

Meta also recently announced its research team has built a new artificial intelligence supercomputer that it thinks will be the fastest in the world when completed in mid-2022.