The artificial intelligence projects Facebook is spending big on
Facebook is one of the most important companies when it comes to AI development. The company concentrates on three projects in particular – and spends large sums on the corresponding technologies, patents and employees.
The battle for the brightest minds in AI research is tough. If you have an idea for something that uses artificial intelligence, you can almost choose which large company to buy from. Facebook works primarily in three areas of AI development, and Mark Zuckerberg and his team have acquired numerous smaller companies to bring their know-how and employees under the umbrella of Facebook.
1. Face and speech recognition
Facebook lives on faces and language in their many forms, be it photos, videos, text messages, recordings and much more. The world’s largest social network is continuing to expand its activities in this field, primarily through the acquisition of four companies in just a few years. They all have different priorities.
It all started with Face.com, which was taken over by Mark Zuckerberg in 2012. The Israeli company is one of the pioneers when it comes to facial recognition and the collection of biometric data. Facebook put around $100 million on the table for Face.com at the time, then dissolved the Face.com brand and cherry-picked the most important employees for its own AI team.
With Wit.AI, Facebook went on a shopping spree. Just one and a half years after it was founded, the team from Palo Alto joined Facebook. Wit.AI worked on speech recognition systems with artificial intelligence for apps – it fitted Facebook’s ambitions perfectly. Wit.AI’s technology is used to teach Facebook Messenger voice control.
Also in 2017, the purchase of Ozlo was another notable AI acquisition, with which Facebook would like to improve its own Messenger. The assistant Ozlo developed is simply called “M” and, according to experts, understands the finest nuances of language. M will probably not be completely integrated into Facebook, but parts of the technology will certainly be used. The purchase price is not known, but the small team should not have been overly expensive – Ozlo’s capital was estimated at $14 million.
The most interesting deal to date concluded at the end of 2018 with the acquisition of Dreambit, which is less interested in language than it is in faces. Professor Ira Kemelmacher-Shlizerman of the University of Washington developed Dreambit, an AI-based face-swapping technology based on three-dimensional facial models. Kemelmacher-Shlizerman started the development before she became a professor, and Google was on the verge of snapping it up. But at the end of the rather exciting story, Facebook took it for an undisclosed sum, but it is safe to assume it was a hefty investment. However, Kemelmacher-Shlizerman has kept her professorship alongside her work for Facebook.
2. The fight against fake news
Facebook is the most important source of daily news for many people. However, Facebook does not write news itself but leaves it to users to spread and share things that seem important to them. The spread of fake news, of tendentious, simply false or abusive content, is becoming more and more a problem. For many, Facebook’s policy against fake news doesn’t go far enough, but this is exactly where the artificial intelligent should come in and support the human employees in their fight against this nonsense news.
Last year, Facebook acquired Bloomsbury AI from London. Bloomsbury AI has developed a technology that uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) to analyze content and automatically answer questions. Bloomsbury AI uses the algorithms it has developed to search articles, documents and, in the future, Facebook posts. William Tunstall-Pedoe, who was involved in the development of Alexa at Amazon, is also an investor at Bloomsbury AI. With a purchase price of 30 million euros, the takeover of Bloomsbury AI was loose change for Facebook. The Cape-API platform developed by the company is available at Github.
3. Online shopping
On Facebook, most people still don’t think primarily about shopping, but that’s about to change in the future. With the Marketplace, Facebook has already created its own shopping platform, albeit not a very successful one so far. In order to change this, the social network has bought GrokStyle, another AI company. GrokStyle, founded in 2015 by Kavita Bala and Sean Bell, has developed a system that allows customers to view objects via augmented reality to find out how well a new piece of furniture fits into their own home. Similar apps are available from numerous suppliers, but the GrokStyle app is considered the best on the market. It was not for nothing that Ikea was the first major customer to bite.
Especially in combination with the VR/AR efforts of Facebook with Oculus, the takeover of GrokStyle makes sense. Your smartphone already has integrated Facebook and its own camera own app, so phones could easily be enriched with the functions of GrokStyle. Facebook is also gradually transforming its other platforms, such as Instagram, into digital shopping malls. The marketplace where users can offer used items may still look like the junk corner in a one-dollar store, but if the assortment, presentation and prices are right, this could change quickly.
What do you think about Facebook’s investment in AI? Let us know.