New Year's Resolutions are made to be broken, but at least one prominent player in the tech industry is keen to up the ante. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced his latest "personal challenge" late Sunday, one of several goals that the billionaire executive and philanthropist has publicly made in recent years. After completing previous challenges to read two books per month, meet a new person each day, and learn Mandarin, Mr. Zuckerberg now wants to take things to an even more ambitious level: creating a personal AI assistant.
Likening the project's goal to a simple version of Iron Man's J.A.R.V.I.S., Mr. Zuckerberg envisions a program that will intelligently handle the environmental conditions of his home -- lighting, music, temperature, etc. -- automatically open the door for certain friends and family members based on facial recognition technology, and monitor the health and activity of his young son. When it's time to get down to work, Mr. Zuckerberg also foresees the AI helping him to visualize data in virtual reality, no doubt with the help of Oculus VR, which Facebook acquired for $2 billion in mid-2014.
Many of the goals and tasks that Mr. Zuckerberg plans for his eventual AI assistant are of course already familiar in the growing industries of home control and digital assistants. Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and many other companies have all begun projects and services dealing with personal assistants and home automation to various degrees of complexity and success.
Mr. Zuckerberg's initiative isn't necessarily a repudiation of these existing efforts, but rather a personal experiment, the fruits of which may someday evolve into Facebook's official product offering in this space. Indeed, Mr. Zuckerberg states that his first step for his AI project is "exploring what technology is already out there." The Facebook founder is certainly already aware of the functionality of major services such as Siri (and HomeKit), Google Now, Cortana, and Amazon's Echo (Alexa), but it will be interesting to see what aspects of each service are kept or reworked in the final product, and if said product makes its way into the public spotlight.
If the final design of Mr. Zuckerberg's AI is wearing a bow tie, however, a certain company and its fans may just lose it.