Facebook's Zuckerberg says robots 'better than humans' are 10 years away

Social network giant Facebook is now developing facial and voice recognition technology which might rival Apple's Siri – and even humans.

Robert Galbraith/Reuters/File
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during his keynote address at Facebook F8 in San Francisco, California, in this file photo taken March 25, 2015.

Facebook hosted an online “town hall” Tuesday, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg answering questions ranging from what scientific advances he wanted to see, posed by theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, to former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's question on Mr. Zuckerberg's workout regimen. However, the inquiries from non-celebrities gave users the most interesting insights into the products and software innovations that the social media innovator is currently working on, including virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

Zuckerberg confirmed Facebook’s developments on virtual reality technology, saying "we're working on VR [virtual reality] because I think it's the next major computing and communication platform after phones."

"One day, I believe we'll be able to send full rich thoughts to each other directly using technology. You'll just be able to think of something and your friends will immediately be able to experience it too if you'd like. This would be the ultimate communication technology," Zuckerberg added.

The CEO also predicted that, "immersive experiences like VR will become the norm."

In January, 2015, Facebook acquired artificial intelligence company Wit.ai. At the time, Wit.ai had over 6,000 developers working on the site, and the capability was free and could be added to an individual company’s platform simply by adding a few lines of code. Wit.ai works to “build machines that understand human languages” according to a blog post issued by the tech startup.  At the time of the acquisition, Facebook intended to maintain the open-source format of Wit.ai.  

Zuckerberg said that Facebook’s technological developments in the field of artificial intelligence have "focused on understanding the meaning of what people share" and that the company was developing these "because we think more intelligent services will be much more useful for you to use."  

Other companies are also working in the field of artificial intelligence, including Google which acquired DeepMind in January 2014. The $400 million dollar purchase marked the “ninth robotics-oriented acquisition in a little over a year,” as reported by The Christian Science Monitor at the time.

Facebook is setting ambitious goals. In the question and answer session, Zuckerberg said "our goal is to build AI [artificial intelligence] systems that are better than humans at our primary sense: vision, listening, etc."

Currently, Facebook is working on sensory imaging that will allow recognition of anything that is in a photo or video, said Zuckerberg. The company is also trying to improve its text and audio capabilities.

"We're focusing on translating speech to text, text between any languages, and also being able to answer any natural language question you ask," he added.

These developments could help those who aren't able to use Facebook in its current format.

"If we could build computers that could understand what's in an image and could tell a blind person who otherwise couldn't see that image, that would be pretty amazing as well," Zuckerberg said. 

Zuckerberg added he is confident that these developments will be coming to Facebook soon, saying "This is all within our reach and I hope we can deliver it in the next 10 years." 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.