Facebook’s team based in Bellevue, Washington has been working to build a new AI assistant technology.
“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,” a Facebook spokesperson acknowledged to Search Marketing Daily.
Ira Snyder, director of AR/VR and Facebook Assistant, is leading the effort, according to a report citing people who are familiar with the project. That team has been contacting vendors in the smart speaker space.
Snyder took the role of director about seven months ago. Prior to that, he worked as the general manager of research for the Facebook Reality Labs in Redmond, Washington.
He also spent nearly six years at Microsoft between November 2011 and November 2014, according to his LinkedIn profile. At Microsoft, he gained experience “incubating” a variety of new technologies and products.
Voice is not an entirely new area for Facebook, which already sees Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft as competition in the space. The company has voice technology, but building it into hardware could put Facebook on another path.
Amazon, with Alexa, had 67% of the market share in the United States in 2018, while Google had about 30% share, according to eMarketer.
Few people use voice assistants and speakers for shopping.Voice commerce in 2018 will reach $2.10 billion -- just 0.4% of U.S. ecommerce sales, per eMarketer.
In October, Facebook debuted the Portal and Portal Plus video chat devices. The first Facebook-branded products for consumers put the company in the home-hardware game with Amazon, Google and Microsoft.
Some believe it is those portals that prompted Facebook to build an AI voice-control platform. But this isn’t the first time Facebook tried to build a virtual assistant. Facebook’s chat assistant, called M, was used in Facebook's messaging app, but Facebook shuttered it in January 2018.