Confirmed: Facebook Is Working On A Digital Assistant

By Amit Chowdhry ● April 17, 2019

Today Facebook confirmed that it is working on an artificial intelligence based assistant for its Portal and Oculus devices. The digital assistant will work similarly to Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, Apple Siri, and Google Assistant. Rumors about Facebook’s upcoming digital assistant were surfaced by CNBC.

This would not be the first time that Facebook built a digital assistant. Facebook previously created an artificial intelligence based digital assistant for Messenger called M. Facebook M was supposed to help Messenger users with smart suggestions. But Facebook shut down the M digital assistant last year due to a lack of traction.

And Facebook also built an ecosystem of bots in the Messenger app. The bots are mostly used for customer service reasons or for ordering products online.

However, Facebook’s digital assistant will not be as focused on messaging this time around. The digital assistant will have more of a focus on platforms for hands-free interactions through voice controls and possibly gesture controls.

“We are working to develop voice and AI assistant technologies that may work across our family of AR/VR products including Portal, Oculus and future products,” said a Facebook spokesperson via The Verge today.

According to CNBC, Facebook is building the digital assistant at a Redmond, Washington location and the project is being led by Ira Snyder – a Director of AR/VR and Facebook Assistant. Facebook Assistant seems to be the working title of the digital assistant. But it may be subject to change.

Facebook launched the Portal line of devices back in November. And these devices allow users to place video calls through Facebook’s Messenger app. Users can say “Hey Portal” to activate the device and handle certain commands. But Facebook Portal also has Amazon Alexa built-in for handling additional tasks. When Facebook’s digital assistant is ready, then it seems likely that it will be integrated natively into Portal without needing assistance from Alexa.