Mark Zuckerberg’s 2016 challenge: build an AI assistant

Molly Wood Jan 5, 2016

Last year Mark Zuckerberg’s challenge was to read a new book every other week. In 2014, he said he wanted to write a thank you card every day of the year and in 2013 he said he would meet a “new person everyday outside of Facebook that did not work for the company.” 

But for 2016, Zuckerberg announced he would be building an artificial intelligence assistant that can control his home, and help with work, much like J.A.R.V.I.S., Tony Stark’s AI assistant in “Iron Man.”

Zuckerberg made the announcement Sunday via his Facebook page.

“On the work side, it’ll help me visualize data in VR to help me build better services and lead my organizations more effectively,” Zuckerberg wrote.

Zuckerberg said he plans to update everyone on his progress during the year.

Ryan Calo, University of Washington law professor and robotics enthusiast, said wanting an AI assistant is nothing new.

“The dream of having a robotic or artificial intelligence butler has been around for some time. It’s the reason we had Clippy and Microsoft Bob and I’m not surprised that prominent people are calling for it to come to fruition finally,” he said.

 As for the technology, Calo says much of it has been around for some time.

“So far as you might have an Amazon Echo that you might be interacting with, some kind of chat bot that you might just have in a smart home. A lot of the kinds of things that we are talking about are available,” Calo said. “The issue is we haven’t historically had the amount of data that we have today. Nor necessarily the sophistication of the algorithms in order to make it flow more naturally and have more what I call forwardences, be able to control more of the environment.”

Calo also said although some people try to adopt many of the habits of early movers, there are many cases where the spreading to the masses doesn’t happen until much later.

“It’s hard to say, when you start to layer in social norms when you start to layer in the market. That crystal ball gets awfully fuzzy,” he said.  

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