Meta debuted a series of new AI-powered tools for its social platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp, at its annual developers conference Meta Connect on Sept. 27. And while Meta hasn’t completely abandoned its namesake, the metaverse — reveals at the event also included the new Quest 3 VR headset and upgrades to its line of smart glasses with Ray-Ban — the company has clearly shifted its focus to this year’s hottest technology, AI.
New tools coming to Meta platforms include the Meta AI virtual assistant, AI characters voiced by celebrities like Snoop Dogg and Tom Brady that users can interact with and AI-powered image editing features. The company also announced plans to open up its AI Studio to developers outside of Meta to enable the creation of third-party AI characters for its platforms.
Here’s a full rundown:
The New Meta AI Virtual Assistant
Now available on WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram, Meta AI is an “assistant you can interact with like a person.” The chatbot is powered by a custom large-language model and has access to real-time information through Meta’s search partnership with Microsoft’s Bing. It also includes a tool for image generation.
Celebrity-Based AI Characters Users Can Interact With
In addition to Meta AI, the company also has launched 28 additional AIs that users can message on WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram just for fun. As to the question of “why?” Meta said in a blog post that AI technology “isn’t purely about building AIs that only answer questions. We’ve been creating AIs that have more personality, opinions and interests, and are a bit more fun to interact with.”
“We don’t think there’s going to be one singular superintelligence that everyone interacts with,” said Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a keynote address at the event, as reported by The Information. “People are going to want to interact with a bunch of different ones.”
Each virtual character has its own unique back story, and to make them more familiar to users the company teamed up with some familiar faces to bring the characters to life. Among the list of celebrities and influencers that helped create the AI characters are Charli D’Amelio, Chris Paul, Kendall Jenner, MrBeast, Naomi Osaka, Paris Hilton, Snoop Dogg and Tom Brady. Each character will have its own profiles on Instagram and Facebook, and new characters will be added soon played by Bear Grylls, Chloe Kim and Josh Richards, among others.
The company did caution that “it’s still early days for our AIs. Right now, their knowledge base (with the exception of Meta AI and [two of the AI characters], Bru and Perry) is limited to information that largely existed prior to 2023, which means some responses may be dated. We aim to bring search to many more of our AIs in the coming months like we have done with Meta AI so that conversations can be timely and relevant too.”
Opening Development of AIs to Others
The creation of unique AIs for Meta platforms won’t be limited to Meta and celebrities; the company also plans to open up AI Studio, the platform that supports the creation of its AIs, to people outside of the company to enable the development of additional AI characters.
Developers will be able to build third-party AIs for Meta’s messaging services in the coming weeks, starting on Messenger and then expanding to WhatsApp in an initial alpha test that will scale further next year. Creators also will have the opportunity to build AIs that extend their presence across Meta apps through a new “sandbox” environment that will allow anyone to experiment with creating their own AI.
Meta clearly sees these AI characters as a steppingstone to virtual personalities that might eventually populate the broader metaverse, saying: “As our universe of AIs continues to grow and evolve, we’ll bring this sandbox to the metaverse, giving you the chance to build AIs that adopt an even greater level of realism, embodiment and connectedness.”
Image Editing and Co-Creation with AI
Image restyling and backdrop editing features will be coming soon to Instagram, using technology from Meta’s image-generation model Emu, which stands for expressive media universe. With Restyle, users will be able to stylize their images through AI prompts like “watercolor” or “collage from magazines and newspapers, torn edges.” Similarly, Backdrop will allow users to easily change the background of their photos with conversational AI prompts.
All images modified with the two tools will include messaging that AI was used “to reduce the chances of people mistaking them for human-generated content,” said Meta, and the company also said it is currently experimenting with both visible and invisible markers for AI-generated content to enhance transparency.
A Commitment to Responsible AI Development
Finally, Meta made it clear that as it builds out its AI capabilities it is “committed to building responsibly with safety in mind,” and that users’ ongoing experiences with these latest tools will inform how that plays out.
“We are continuing to test and evolve the capabilities of our AIs and will improve the experience over time through what we learn from your interactions with them,” said the company. “Your direct feedback and the conversations you have with our AIs are core parts of what will help us improve our AI models, and ultimately enhance the experience at scale.”