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."