Facebook is developing a virtual assistant similar to Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, according to a report from CNBC.
Facebook’s augmented reality and virtual reality division has reportedly been developing the project since early 2018.
According to CNBC, the team is being led by Ira Snyder, director of AR/VR and Facebook Assistant, who has been contacting vendors in the smart speaker supply chain.
Beyond that, it’s unclear exactly what Facebook intends to use its assistant for or when it may even release. Given that the company’s AR and VR group is working on the project, it’s likely that the assistant will be integrated in some capacity into Facebook’s Oculus VR headset.
It’s also possible that the assistant will work with Facebook’s Portal video chat speaker, which launched in the U.S. last November but has yet to come to Canada. The Portal currently supports Alexa voice commands.
In any case, this wouldn’t be Facebook’s first crack at a virtual assistant. In 2015, the company released its M AI assistant to offer smart suggestions to users, similar to a chatbot. However, the feature didn’t make its way to Canada until a stripped-down version came in August 2017. Even then, M was only available to a limited number of Canadian users.
Facebook ultimately killed the project in January 2018. At the time, Facebook said it planned to take “the useful insights [learned from M] to power other AI projects at Facebook.”
Now, it appears that one of those other AI projects is a Siri and Alexa rival.