Facebook’s smart speaker didn’t ship with a rival to Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri. But the company is now working on its own digital assistant, according to a new report from CNBC.
It’s not clear exactly how the assistant will work or what it will be called, though CNBC reports it could be integrated with Facebook’s Oculus virtual reality headsets or with the company’s Portal speakers. Right now, Portal relies on Alexa for assistant functionality, though you can control speaker functions like volume by saying “hey Portal.”
Facebook doesn’t have an AI assistant of its own, however, despite longstanding rumors about its ambitions in the space.
The latest project is reportedly being led by Ira Snyder, who works in Facebook’s Reality Labs. Snyder’s LinkedIn profile lists his job as “Director, AR/VR and Facebook Assistant.” Facebook didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
This isn’t the first time Facebook has explored an assistant feature. The company’s Messenger team previously built an assistant for the messaging app called M, which was supposed to act like a personal assistant. Facebook’s vision was to use a combination of humans and AI to help you do stuff like buy plane tickets or order food. The company eventually shut down the feature, but it was reported last year (also by CNBC) that a revamped “M,” apparently short “Marvin,” could make an appearance in Portal speakers.
Whether or not this is the same “Facebook Assistant” project Snyder is still working on is unclear. But, it seems Facebook’s dreams of having its own version of Alexa are alive and well.
UPDATE: April 17, 2019, 2:36 p.m. PDT In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said, “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.”