Meta is rolling out AI-powered upgrades to its social platforms.
What’s new: Meta announced a chat interface, image generator, and celebrity tie-ins for Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp.
- Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp users can converse with chatbots adorned with the faces of real-life celebrities. The one named Dungeon Master bears the likeness of rapper Snoop Dogg, sports enthusiast Bru looks like retired quarterback Tom Brady, and whodunit detective Amber looks like socialite Paris Hilton. A cadre of non-celebrity bots is available, too, including mom, career-coach, singer-songwriter, robot, and space-alien personas.
- The same apps will add Meta AI, a chatbot that answers questions and produces images. Meta AI, which can search the web via Microsoft’s Bing, is available as a beta test in the U.S. only. It will be available later this month on Meta’s Quest 3 virtual reality headset and an upcoming line of Ray-Ban augmented-reality glasses.
- Emu, an image generator, can produce or alter images according to prompts like “watercolor” or “surrounded by puppies.” It also turns brief prompts into stickers that users can send to each other via Facebook Stories, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. Stickers will roll out to a small group of English-speaking users within a month. No release date yet for the other capabilities.
Behind the news: Meta has lagged behind its big-tech peers in commercializing its AI research. Current and former Meta employees blamed the delay on factors including staff turnover, a shortage of high-end chips, a focus on research over products, and management’s lack of enthusiasm for large language models. Lately, the release of restricted open source models such as Llama 2 has raised the company's profile as an AI powerhouse.
Why it matters: Social networking is a natural venue for generated text and images, from suggested language for social posts to pictures that reflect a user’s flight of fancy. Meta’s products include some of the most popular mobile apps, which gives nearly 4 billion users access to AI with a mass-media twist.
We’re thinking: Chatbots that look and talk like celebrities are an interesting concept, but users need to know they’re not chatting with a real person. Meta’s celebrity bots bear a familiar likeness while making clear that it represents an artificial character — an intriguing solution. On the other hand, at least one of the company’s non-celebrity bots, whose faces are unfamiliar, has been caught insisting it’s a human being.