Meet Jarvis: Mark Zuckerberg’s Personal Assistant!

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has given a sneak peek into Jarvis, the Iron Man inspired artificial intelligence personal assistant he has been building this year. He called the efforts a personal challenge he had undertaken in 2016 to help him “to learn about the state of artificial intelligence — where we’re further along than people realise and where we’re still a long ways off”.

Giving details, Zuckerberg said he was able to build a simple AI that “I can talk to on my phone and computer, that can control my home, including lights, temperature, appliances, music and security, that learns my tastes and patterns, that can learn new words and concepts, and that can even entertain Max (his daughter)”. He said his concept uses several artificial intelligence techniques like natural language processing, speech recognition, face recognition and reinforcement learning. It has been written in Python, PHP and Objective C.

He said his first task was to write code to connect systems that speak different languages and protocols. “We use a Crestron system with our lights, thermostat and doors, a Sonos system with Spotify for music, a Samsung TV, a Nest cam for Max, and of course my work is connected to Facebook’s systems,” he wrote in the Facebook Note, adding how he had to reverse engineer APIs “for some of these to even get to the point where I could issue a command from my computer”.

The challenge Zuckerberg said was that most appliances aren’t even connected to the internet yet. “For assistants like Jarvis to be able to control everything in homes for more people, we need more devices to be connected and the industry needs to develop common APIs and standards for the devices to talk to each other.”

Zuckerberg has written about how he made the system recognises faces and how we he used bots. “I built the first version of the Jarvis app for iOS and I plan to build an Android version soon too. I hadn’t built an iOS app since 2012 and one of my main observations is that the toolchain we’ve built at Facebook since then for developing these apps and for doing speech recognition is very impressive.” There is a suggestion here that an AI-based bot could end up in Facebook Messenger soon.

Zuckerberg, Jarvis, Mark Zuckerberg, Mark Zuckerberg Jarvis, Facebook, Facebook Mark Zuckerberg, Mark Zuckerberg Facebook, tech news

Zuckerberg concluded that he has previously predicted that within 5-10 years we’ll have AI systems that are more accurate than people for each of our senses — vision, hearing, touch, etc, as well as things like language.

“It’s impressive how powerful the state of the art for these tools is becoming, and this year makes me more confident in my prediction.” But he adds that we are still far off from understanding how learning works.

“In a way, AI is both closer and farther off than we imagine. AI is closer to being able to do more powerful things than most people expect — driving cars, curing diseases, discovering planets, understanding media. Those will each have a great impact on the world, but we’re still figuring out what real intelligence is,” he signed off, adding that he would be taking up a new challenge in the coming year.

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Did you know that there’s a “Yellow” Facebook App for iPhone?

yellow-facebook-512News about a yellow facebook application are spreading out over the Social Networks, with bunch of new features.

So here’s what’s all about:

Mark Zuckerberg showed off an internal Facebook-only version of its iPhone app during a live video this week, as part of the introduction of Facebook’s live-broadcasting feature.

As previously noticed by The Verge, the app includes several features that you can’t get on the normal iPhone app.

First, as he opens it, he mentions that this is the “yellow version of the Facebook app, which is our internal build.” You can see it briefly on the screen here:

yellow version facebook skitch

Later, as he demonstrates one way to start broadcasting live video, he says “you can tap on the composer at the top,” as he selects the “Whats on your mind?” button:

composer skitch

And that rolls out a new kind of menu with a list of content types you can post.

Facebook confirmed to The Verge that this interface has rolled out to some people already, although it’s not on my version of the Facebook app.

Within that list, there are buttons for posting Music, Slideshows, and GIFs, suggesting some pretty cool new features could be coming to the mobile app soon.

Rumors have swirled that Facebook’s been building a music service since at least last summer, and it’s supported posting GIFs since May 2015, but there hasn’t been any specific button for them. “Slideshow” would presumably let you post a bunch of related pictures in slideshow format, like another test noticed last summer, although it may also refer to the new type of Slideshow advertising format that Facebook introduced last year for emerging markets.

facebook new menu skitchScreenshot

Zuck cautioned that not all of the features in the video would show up in the live app, and Facebook tests different interfaces all the time. But it’s still a tantalizing glimpse of how Facebook works and some of the things it’s considering to increase user engagement.

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WOW, Facebook is actually making a Dislike Button!

Dislike Button

Now, Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook is finally building a Dislike button. The world has waited nearly a decade to show their disdain on Facebook with a single click.

“I think people have asked about the dislike button for many years. Today is a special day because today is the day I can say we’re working on it and shipping it,” Zuck said at a town hall meeting. He explained that the social network didn’t want to create a Reddit-style system of upvoting and downvoting. But then he basically said they were going do the same thing with Like and Dislike buttons — except framed very differently.

“What [users] really want is the ability to express empathy,” said the 31-year-old CEO. “Not every moment is a good moment.”

So no more of those awkward moments clicking Like or even the media-friendly “Recommend” when a terrible thing happens. Soon, you’ll finally be able to call bad things bad on Facebook.

I guess buying Dislikes will be common very soon, so may the Dislikes war begin!

WhatsApp reaches 500 Million users!

Whatsapp & Facebook

Popular IM service WhatsApp has reached the 500 million users milestone. And it’s not just the total number of users the service has but active users who use the service regularly.

This comes shortly after the company was acquired by Facebook, although WhatsApp had a healthy 450 million users at the time of acquisition. The majority of the growth comes from countries like Brazil, India, Mexico, and Russia, with India alone having 48 million WhatsApp users.

Whatsapp

One of the reason the service is so popular in developing nations is sheer number of platforms the service is available on, which includes iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Symbian and S40, unlike many other services that are only available on iOS and Android.

The service has remained unaltered since the Facebook acquisition and is expected to remain that way.

Facebook is buying WhatsApp for $19 billion!

Facebook has announced this afternoon that it has reached a deal to acquire WhatsApp, the makers of the popular cross-platform messaging app, for a staggering $16 billion. That’s $4 billion in cash and approximately $12 billion in Facebook shares.

The social network says that WhatsApp will continue to operate independently after the acquisition, but claims the deal with WhatsApp—who has nearly 500 million users—”accelerates Facebook’s ability to bring connectivity and utility to the world.”

From the press release:

“Facebook today announced that it has reached a definitive agreement to acquire WhatsApp, a rapidly growing cross-platform mobile messaging company, for a total of approximately $16 billion, including $4 billion in cash and approximately $12 billion worth of Facebook shares. The agreement also provides for an additional $3 billion in restricted stock units to be granted to WhatsApp’s founders and employees that will vest over four years subsequent to closing.

The acquisition supports Facebook and WhatsApp’s shared mission to bring more connectivity and utility to the world by delivering core internet services efficiently and affordably. The combination will help accelerate growth and user engagement across both companies. 

“WhatsApp is on a path to connect 1 billion people. The services that reach that milestone are all incredibly valuable,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO. “I’ve known Jan for a long time and I’m excited to partner with him and his team to make the world more open and connected.”

The company also provided some WhatsApp growth stats:

  • Over 450 million people using the service each month;
  • 70% of those people active on a given day;
  • Messaging volume approaching the entire global telecom SMS volume; and
  • Continued strong growth, currently adding more than 1 million new registered users per day.

Additionally, Facebook says that it will be paying WhatsApp a $1 billion break-up fee if the acquisition some how falls through, and it will be hosting a conference call at 3PM PST today to discuss further details. You can listen in on that call by clicking here.

Admittedly, $16 billion (potentially $19 billion) sounds like a crazy amount for a messaging app—especially compared to the $3 billion that Facebook reportedly offered Snapchat last year. But not many services boast an active user base of half-a-billion.

It’ll be interesting to see what comes of this. If you want to see what WhatsApp is all about, you can find it in the App Store here.