Facebook is reportedly in the process of creating its own AI assistant akin to Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant, former employees told CNBC. The virtual assistant project is reportedly being managed by employees out of Facebook’s Redmond, Washington office and started last year.

Portal, the first consumer electronic device made in-house by Facebook, made its debut last fall, but also includes hands-free access to Amazon’s Alexa.

An AI assistant made especially for interaction with Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp could be particularly unique or powerful, but today Portal only responds to simple voice commands related to starting Facebook Messenger video calls. Other AI assistant-related roles, like playing music or weather updates, are relegated to Alexa.

Facebook has undertaken a number of conversational AI-driven products in the past few years — most recently for Portal — but there’s also M, which is now integrated into Facebook Messenger’s suggested responses. M Suggestions can recommend you hail an Uber, translate conversations, wish a friend happy birthday, or put you in touch with Food Network or Spotify bots if you reference a song or recipe.

M started as a private beta for a few thousand users in California, a beta that was shut down in January 2018.

Facebook acquired AI assistant startup Ozlo in July 2017.

More news could be on the way about the reported assistant project, as Facebook is scheduled to hold its annual F8 developer conference at the end of April.


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