Over the last year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has dedicated more than 100 hours to developing a personal AI system that runs his home.
The system, which he calls Jarvis, was the product of Zuckerberg's personal challenge for 2016. Previous years have found the Facebook founder mastering Mandarin, coding every day, and reading two books every month.
In a letter he posted on Facebook at the beginning of this year, Zuckerberg announced that for 2016, the theme for his personal challenge is an invention. "My personal challenge for 2016 is to build a simple AI to run my home and help me with my work," he wrote. "You can think of it kind of like Jarvis in Iron Man."
Since this announcement, many have wondered if Zuckerberg actually managed to create his own AI helper singlehandedly and, if he did, how he went about it. In an end-of-the-year report about his 2016 challenge, the Facebook boss outlined what his Jarvis can do, how he made the system, and the challenges he faced along the way.
According to Fast Company, while Zuckerberg's AI assistant is based on Iron Man's Jarvis, the system actually works more like Amazon's Alexa and Google Home's Google Assistant. Using a custom iPhone app or a Facebook Messenger chat bot Zuckerberg created, he and his wife Priscilla Chan can ask their Jarvis to turn lights on and off, open the front door for visitors, play music, and even wake up their daughter Max. Zuckerberg explained that the door-facing cameras he installed in his house uses Facebook's facial recognition tech. This was one of the less complicated steps to making Jarvis; the process also involved getting the futuristic AI assistant to respond to open-ended requests. According to Zuckerberg, the AI can play music based on broad terms such as "light" instead of specific tracks.
But the project wasn't without hiccups. In his Facebook letter, Zuckerberg also noted that he ran into several obstacles, such as household equipment not working with his AI system. He remedied this by reverse-engineering code and tinkering with the appliances to get them online. In January, Zuckerberg wrote that he wants Jarvis to be able to control everything in his home and that he hopes that it will be able to "visualize data in VR to help [him] build better services and lead [his] organizations [at Facebook] more efficiently." Apart from having to work on the VR part, Zuckerberg reported that he would like to work on an Android app for Jarvis and set up more listening stations around his house. Engadget notes that while Jarvis was a personal challenge for Zuckerberg, Facebook users can probably expect the AI system to influence the social network's broader AI strategy in the future.