Facebook Is Developing An AI Assistant For Oculus Headsets

by Jamie Feltham • April 18th, 2019

Which has the better ring to it, “Hey, Oculus?” or “Okay, Oculus”? I’m asking because Facebook’s VR headsets could soon have an AI voice assistant of their own.

CNBC first reported that the social networking giant was building a new voice assistant to work across multiple platforms. A Facebook spokesperson since confirmed the news to us with the following statement: “We are working to develop voice and AI assistant technologies that may work across our family of AR/VR products including Portal, Oculus and future products.”

Oculus is handling a lot of Facebook’s VR and AR efforts but the Portal group is working in these areas too alongside new camera tech.

Theoretically, such an assistant could give VR users hands-free control of the Oculus platform. Every existing and upcoming Oculus headset (Rift, Go, Quest and Rift S) features a built-in microphone. You could use that to, say, summon Oculus Dash without pressing the menu button, or maybe open virtual windows into your desktop at a moment’s notice.

As spotted by The Verge, the team is being led by Ira Synder, who holds the rather obvious title of Director, AR/VR and Facebook Assistant at Facebook on his LinkedIn page. Facebook Assistant could either be the final name for the AI, or it could simply be an internal name.

We’ll be interested to see whether Facebook takes a more futuristic step with this AI, too. Siri and the Google Assistant are designed to sound like humans, but we can’t see them. Could Facebook’s offering revolve around seeing the assistant as well as hearing them?

Whatever Facebook’s plans are there’s a decent chance we’ll find out more at its annual developer conference, F8. That’s set to kick off in, oh, just under two weeks from now.

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