Zuckerberg builds AI assistant ‘Jarvis’

CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg has finished building Jarvis, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system for his home, which was one of his personal challenges for 2016. Zuckerberg picks a personal challenge every year, and in 2016 he set two of them: to run 365 miles, and to build his very own Jarvis. The name is inspired by the Jarvis AI assistant used by Tony Stark/ Iron Man in the Marvel comic books and movies.

Jarvis is an AI system Zuckerberg has built to control his home and perform basic tasks, such as turning the lights off or on, control a particular room’s temperature, playing music, opening doors, and so on. The intention is that it can control everything in your home just by using your voice. Jarvis can also tell you the schedule for the day, teach languages, inform you what others in the home are doing, prepare toasts, set up video conferences, and play movies. It uses several artificial intelligence techniques, including natural language processing, speech recognition, face recognition, and reinforcement learning, written in Python, PHP, and Objective C. The Zuckerberg family can either speak directly to the Jarvis AI, or use Messenger bot, or a dedicated app. In the post announcing Jarvis, Mark Zuckerberg said that the dedicated Jarvis app (only the iPhone is ready at present, while he is building the Android app) is always listening for instructions, similar to what Google Now and the Google Assistant do.

“It’s hard to find a toaster that will let you push the bread down while it’s powered off so you can automatically start toasting when the power goes on,” he wrote. “I ended up finding an old toaster from the 1950s and rigging it up with a connected switch.” That’s something Google Home or Amazon’s Echo doesn’t do. While much of the tech industry is focused on the rise of the voice-centric interface following the success of Amazon’s Echo, Zuckerberg believes text input will still play a large role in how we interact with AI. A helpful assistant should support both text and voice input, similar to Microsoft’s Cortana.

“To put that in perspective, I spent about 100 hours building Jarvis this year, and now I have a pretty good system that understands me and can do lots of things. But even if I spent 1,000 more hours, I probably wouldn’t be able to build a system that could learn completely new skills on its own — unless I made some fundamental breakthrough in the state of AI along the way.” He wrote.

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