Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on Monday (19 December) showed off his very own artificial intelligence (AI) system that he created in his spare time this year. Inspired by Jarvis, the virtual assistant created by Tony Stark in Marvel's Iron Man comics, Zuckerberg said his personal challenge for 2016 was to build a simple AI system to run his household.
"My goal was to learn about the state of artificial intelligence - where we're further along than people realise and where we're still a long ways off," Zuckerberg wrote in a post. "These challenges always lead me to learn more than I expected, and this one also gave me a better sense of all the internal technology Facebook engineers get to use, as well as a thorough overview of home automation."
Zuckerberg said he wanted Jarvis to be able to learn his "tastes and patterns", control his home including lights, temperature, appliances, security and music, pick up new words and concepts and even entertain his daughter Max. Jarvis uses several artificial intelligence techniques such as natural language processing, speech recognition, facial recognition and reinforcement learning written in Python, PHP and Objective, he said.
"Before I could build any AI, I first needed to write code to connect these systems, which all speak different languages and protocols," Zuckerberg explained. "We use a Crestron system with our lights, thermostat and doors, a Sonos system with Spotify for music, a Samsung TV, a Nest cam for Max, and of course my work is connected to Facebook's systems.
"I had to reverse engineer APIs for some of these to even get to the point where I could issue a command from my computer to turn the lights on or get a song to play."
The Facebook founder also noted that most appliances are not connected to the internet yet, which proved to be challenging during his project.
"For example, one thing I learned is it's hard to find a toaster that will let you push the bread down while it's powered off so you can automatically start toasting when the power goes on," he wrote. "I ended up finding an old toaster from the 1950s and rigging it up with a connected switch."
He also discovered that connecting a food dispenser for his dog, Beast, or developing a "cannon" to fire off his signature grey T-shirts would require hardware modifications.
"For assistants like Jarvis to be able to control everything in homes for more people, we need more devices to be connected and the industry needs to be connected and the industry needs to develop common APIs and standards for the devices to talk to each other," Zuckerberg said.
Zuckerberg said he spent about 100 hours building Jarvis over the course of 2016 and created a Facebook Messenger chat bot that allows him to communicate with Jarvis via text as well as an iOS app with plans to create an Android version soon.
Since the AI system is "too tightly tied" to his household, appliances and network configuration at the moment, he said he won't be able to publicly release his code as it is. However, he does hint that it could be a "great foundation to build a new product".
In a separate post, Zuckerberg said he plans to release a few "fun videos" that he and his wife Priscilla made with his new AI system and finally show off the voice behind Jarvis.
"In the longer term, I'd like to explore teaching Jarvis how to learn new skills itself rather than me having to teach it how to perform specific tasks," he said. "If I spent another year on this challenge, I'd focus more on learning how learning works."