San Francisco: Meta (formerly Facebook) will reportedly launch an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered "personas" in its services -- which include Facebook and Instagram -- as soon as next month, giving users a new way to search, get recommendations, and otherwise engage with
its products and also to boost engagement with its social media platforms.
According to the Financial Times, citing sources, the tech giant has been designing prototypes for chatbots that can have humanlike discussions with its nearly four billion users.
The chatbots could have distinct personalities, such as one that provides travel recommendations "in the style of a surfer" and another that speaks in the manner of former US President Abraham Lincoln.
The upcoming launch may help Meta compete in two ways.
First, built-in chatbots could be a way to increase engagement with services such as Facebook and Instagram in the face of competition from the Chinese short-video-making app TikTok, and second, the chatbots could be used to demonstrate Meta's AI capabilities as the company competes with Microsoft-backed OpenAI and Google's Bard, according to the report.
In addition to boosting engagement, chatbots can collect vast amounts of data on users' interests, helping Meta target users with more relevant content and ads.
Most of Meta's $117 billion a year in revenues come from advertising, the report said.
"Once users interact with a chatbot, it really exposes much more of their data to the company, so that the company can do anything they want with that data," Ravit Dotan, an AI ethics adviser and co-founder of the Collaborative AI Responsibility lab at the University of Pittsburgh, was quoted as saying.
The developments raise concerns around privacy as well as potential "manipulation and nudging", she added.
In February, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company is creating a new "top-level" product team which will be "focused" on generative artificial intelligence (AI).
Zuckerberg posted on Facebook: "We're creating a new top-level product group at Meta focused on generative AI to turbocharge our work in this area."
He further explained that in the short term, the company will focus on building creative and expressive tools. And, over the longer term, the company will develop "AI personas" which will help users in a variety of ways.