Meta is unleashing a new suite of A.I.-powered products across its various platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. What does this mean for software developers and other tech pros?
The new products include A.I. “stickers” that transform text messages into customized visuals (for example, typing “super happy dog on a pogo stick” will render a cartoon of same, which you can then send to other users), A.I.-powered image editing, and a virtual assistant that can answer questions.
Given the recent controversies over Meta’s data privacy and security, the company is rushing to assure users that it intends to build A.I. “responsibly with safety in mind.” How that actually plays out in the real world is anyone’s guess, although a company blog posting suggested that user feedback will be used to “ultimately enhance the experience at scale.”
Meta’s new AI Studio will enable tech pros to build “third-party AIs for our messaging services with our APIs in the coming weeks, starting on Messenger then expanding to WhatsApp,” the posting added. In theory, that will mean businesses will be able to create customized A.I. on Meta’s platforms that respond to customer needs; meanwhile, “creators” will have the ability to “build A.I.s that extend their virtual presence across our apps.” If all that seems a little vague, it’s still early days.
“We’re also building a sandbox that will be released in the coming year, enabling anyone to experiment with creating their own AI,” the blog post concluded. “As our universe of A.I.s continues to grow and evolve, we’ll bring this sandbox to the metaverse, giving you the chance to build A.I.s that adopt an even greater level of realism, embodiment, and connectedness.”
Technically, this is Meta’s second run at enabling businesses, tech professionals, and creators to build intelligent assistants that interact with customers. Way back in ye olden days of 2016, Meta—then known far and wide as Facebook—released a toolkit for building chatbots capable of responding to human queries with text messages, images, and links. For a hot moment, tech executives seemed to think that chatbots were the future of customer service and e-commerce.
However, users became increasingly frustrated over the bots’ rigid scripting and weird errors. Will this second attempt prove more effective? Given the exponentially increasing power of generative A.I., the answer could be “yes,” but there’s still a high potential for error if businesses don’t establish the right parameters for their respective automations. Nobody wants an A.I..-powered customer service chatbot that suddenly starts screaming profanity in response to a customer’s question about shipping.
The Future of A.I.
For those software developers and other tech pros whose jobs touch on Meta’s ecosystem in some way, these announcements are potentially seismic; once Meta actually rolls out the tools associated with AI Studio, these professionals could be tasked with building A.I.-powered chatbots and other features for their employers.
For everyone else, the Meta announcements are a reminder that A.I. is rapidly altering tech workflows. Chatbots are becoming more sophisticated at writing and debugging code, which (along with other tools like low- and no-code platforms) could change how software is built.