Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, opened the company’s Connect developer conference with exciting announcements of new AI products designed for consumers. These innovations include smart glasses capable of answering questions and live streaming on Facebook, advanced bots capable of generating photo-realistic images, and an updated virtual-reality headset.
Speaking from Meta’s Menlo Park, California headquarters, Zuckerberg emphasized Meta’s commitment to shaping the future of human connection. He painted a vivid picture of a near-future where people interact with holographic versions of friends, coworkers, and AI bots designed to assist them.
Zuckerberg highlighted that Meta is dedicated to offering affordable or even free AI solutions that can seamlessly integrate into people’s daily routines. He expressed Meta’s vision for the convergence of the physical and digital worlds, a concept he referred to as the “metaverse.”
During the conference, Meta unveiled the next iteration of its virtual-reality headset, the Quest 3, priced at $499 and set to start shipping on October 10. Additionally, Zuckerberg introduced an AI personal assistant that users can interact with through any of Meta’s messaging apps. He also introduced a playful collection of AI characters, including “Max the sous chef” for dinner ideas and “Lily,” a personal editor and writing partner.
Zuckerberg also presented the next version of Meta’s Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses, allowing users to record videos, take photos, livestream, listen to music, and interact with the Meta AI assistant. These glasses will be available on October 17 for $299.
Meta is currently undergoing a significant corporate transformation, aiming to transition from being a provider of social platforms to a dominant force in the emerging virtual-reality metaverse, akin to a 3D rendition of the internet. However, this transformation has been slower and costlier than anticipated, with Meta’s primary revenue source still coming from advertising on its social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram. The competition from platforms like TikTok remains a significant challenge.
Due to a decline in online advertising and global economic uncertainties, Meta has been forced to cut over 20,000 jobs since the previous November. Zuckerberg has labeled 2023 as the company’s “year of efficiency,” with a focus on streamlining its workforce while making technical hires, particularly in the field of AI, to support Meta’s long-term vision.
Artificial intelligence plays a central role in Meta’s vision, with the release of the AI language model Llama 2 in July, offered for research and commercial use. During the conference, Meta introduced Emu, an AI image generator capable of creating images based on user prompts.
Similar to its tech peers Google and Microsoft, Meta has maintained a substantial research team dedicated to advancing AI technology. However, it faces competition in the rapidly evolving field of “generative AI” tools, which can create new text, images, and other media. Zuckerberg announced that people can access Meta’s new AI models directly or through a partnership with Microsoft, making them available on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, along with Microsoft’s safety and content management tools.
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