Mark Zuckerberg has spent the past nine months against the ropes as his company made major cuts to its work force and struggled to gain mainstream traction with its ambitious plans for virtual reality.
On Thursday, he told Meta employees how he planned to get the company back on track. At the all-party meeting, Mr. Zuckerberg offered an explanation for the recent layoffs and laid out for the first time a vision of how Meta’s work in artificial intelligence will blend with its plans for the virtual reality it calls the Metaverse.
Mr Zuckerberg’s talk was an effort to unite employees after one of the most tumultuous periods in his company’s 18-year history. The chief executive said he made “difficult decisions” about the layoffs with the goal of “building a better technology company” that could ship better products faster – he believed Meta was not doing well because There were over 80,000 workers at the peak of the pandemic.
“I want us to use this period to rebuild and grow our culture,” according to two people who attended the meeting and shared comments with The New York Times.
Mr. Zuckerberg addressed thousands of employees on Meta’s Menlo Park, California, campus in a nearly 15-minute address. The talk, held at an outdoor pavilion the company called Hacker Square, was livestreamed to thousands of employees around the world.
It was one of Meta’s few major all-hands meetings in the past three years, and included presentations from other Meta executives, including Chief Technology Officer Andrew Bosworth and Chief Product Officer Chris Cox.
While Meta has worked aggressively on AI for several years, it has been slower than competitors such as Google and Microsoft to turn that research into consumer products. Mr Zuckerberg on Thursday detailed plans for artificially intelligent “agents” that assist people across all meta apps including WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram.
He said that Meta would work on creating artificial intelligence models that were accessible to more people than his company’s competitors and would eventually fit into his plans for the Metaverse.
“Democratic access is aligned with our product vision of enabling more AI, rather than a single AI,” Mr. Zuckerberg said, according to two people who shared comments with The Times. “Our goal is to build new AI products that support and extend human connections.”
He envisions AI assistants that help people “create content to express themselves and their ideas that much better”, or perhaps some artificially intelligent version of “a coach who advises and encourages”. is when people are feeling down.
AI agents can serve customers in products such as the globally popular messaging app WhatsApp, with Meta focused on turning it into a vital tool for business owners and customer service. And each business can use a personalized AI algorithm.
“Different people have different interests, and we will need a diverse array of AI to represent all these different interests,” Mr. Zuckerberg said at the meeting.
To do this, the company Betting heavily on open source technology, which means it will share its work on artificial intelligence with researchers who want to build their own algorithms on top of what Meta has already done. The company has spent billions over the past decade to drive AI and has attracted top researchers to work on some of the world’s toughest computer science questions around AI.
Meta has been criticized for its approach. researchers and politicians Outside the company says opening up the AI algorithms to many others could lead to malicious, automated and intelligent systems that accelerate the spread of misinformation. Critics say those sophisticated algorithms need to be tightly controlled.
In his address, Mr. Zuckerberg defended Meta’s strategy. He added that open-source software enables greater external scrutiny of technology because it can be viewed by millions of technologists. He added that working together with outsiders will improve Meta’s platforms.
Mr. Zuckerberg also said that he foresees a world where people can build as many different AI programs as they want, instead of relying on something provided by two or three big technology companies.
That doesn’t mean Meta is backing down from its namesake Metaverse plans, Mr. Zuckerberg said. Programs using the new generative AI technology, he said, could eventually help people create new virtual world objects and experiences. And he added that the company plans to bring its AI assistant to the next version of its smart glasses. (meta Released a pair of smart Ray-Ban glasses in 2021Sales have been sluggish, though.)
He also took a dig at Apple’s recently announced Vision Pro headset. $3,500 high-tech glasses which promised to usher in a new era of “spatial computing”.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing what they’ll send up, and it’s a good sign for our own development that they don’t have some magical solution to the laws of physics that we haven’t already discovered,” he commented. said in . Mr Zuckerberg criticized the device’s high materials and cost, while Meta spent years reducing the price of its headsets for an upcoming version that will start at $500,
“Their announcement really reflects how our vision and values differ and what is at stake in shaping this platform,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “Our vision of the metaverse and presence is fundamentally social and about people interacting and feeling close in new amazing ways. In contrast, every demo Apple showed was someone sitting on the couch by themselves.