Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s personal interest in AI voice-assistants is well known: in 2016 his personal mission for the year was building an AI ‘butler’ named Jarvis. Now the social network is working on a voice assistant to serve its 2.32bn users around the world.

CNBC was first to report on the plans yesterday, claiming that a team in Facebook’s Redmond, Washington office was “working on a voice assistant to rival the likes of Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and the Google Assistant”. Facebook subsequently confirmed the report. “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,” a spokesperson told Reuters. That’s about all the detail there is for now, but it’s hardly a surprise.

When Facebook launched its first Portal smart-displays in 2018, it used Amazon’s Alexa for its voice-control features. Competitively speaking, it would make more sense in the longer term if Facebook built and controlled its own voice assistant – although given the succession of stories recently about the social network and privacy (latest example, from yesterday: “Facebook ‘unintentionally’ uploaded email contacts from 1.5m users”), there may well be some trust issues to work through before people are comfortable with a Facebook AI. Then again, you could say the same for Google, Amazon and the other big-tech companies developing this technology.

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