Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg balances Metaverse bet with generative AI.jpgw1440

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg balances Metaverse bet with generative AI push

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Last month, internal discussions about Meta’s investments in artificial intelligence reached such a high that some employees wondered if the company was moving away from virtual reality.

During a company-wide meeting with top executives in April, employees agreed on a question on the subject: Do we still care about the metaverse? The workers were told the answer was “yes.”

That meta employees had to ask at all was remarkable. It has been less than two years since Mark Zuckerberg rebranded the company he founded from Facebook to “Meta” and jeopardized his future in the immersive digital realms called “Metaverse”.

Now the CEO of Meta is trying Imagine the social media giant being a serious player in the artificial intelligence space while Silicon Valley is mesmerized in an arms race to master the burgeoning technology. While Microsoft, Google, and a slew of startups have rolled out chatbots and other groundbreaking innovations that leverage generative artificial intelligence, a form of technology that can produce human-like original content, Meta appears to be catching up.

Two of his generative AI projects, including Galatica, a large-language model for synthesizing scientific research, and his all-purpose chatbot BlenderBot 3, faced negative publicity when the models spewed inaccurate and hateful rhetoric. The company was quick to pause Galatica’s public demo while BlenderBot didn’t get much traction. Since then, the company has announced more everyday innovations, including promotional tools.

Zuckerberg endorsed artificial intelligence as a driver of Meta’s revenue growth last quarter, after nearly a year of dismal financial performance.

“Our AI work is producing good results in our apps and our business,” Zuckerberg said in a statement last month at the time the results were released.

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The Meta CEO has vigorously denied his newfound attention to AI, suggesting the company is less committed to its larger Metaverse bet. In fact, Zuckerberg has argued that AI is fundamental to the metaverse and will be a crucial tool to create more dynamic and accessible virtual reality-based experiences. For example, non-technical users can use generative AI to create their own new worlds in Meta’s virtual reality-based apps.

But both Wall Street and workers will be watching as Zuckerberg prioritizes investments in both technologies to boost the company’s financial performance and employee morale.

“It’s critical that Meta lay out the strategy of how they’re monetizing them and flexing their muscles to show that they’re also a major AI player,” said Dan Ives, analyst at Wedbush Securities. They should show “that they are not sitting at the children’s table while Microsoft, Google and Apple are sitting at the adults’ table.”

The rhetoric about AI has confused some employees and investors about the company’s core focus, as a number of news articles and analysts ponder whether the metaverse is dead and Zuckerberg is abandoning its multi-billion dollar investment.

According to three people familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak about internal affairs, some workers have expressed frustration that the company’s direction is complicated as it advocates AI while cutting jobs and other projects . Other workers rushed to receive an internal alert about AI-related jobs, a way to position themselves safely for the company’s next big bet, one of the people said.

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On Thursday, the company announced the launch of the AI ​​Sandbox, which allows marketers to use AI to create more text and visual options for ads. Meta executives said the product will help marketers more effectively target their ads to different types of consumers by experimenting with extremely subtle changes to text, images, and backgrounds.

For example, an ad might resonate more with women under the age of 35 if the company’s logo is displayed on a cityscape with blurred lights rather than a snowy mountain. Meta also announced Meta Lattice, a new artificial intelligence-based model to improve the performance of its ads across its networks.

But these products are far more modest than those the competition has been touting in recent months. On Wednesday, Google announced that it would start answering some searches directly, generating its own results using sources across the web, rather than linking to and aggregating other sites as it has done for two decades.

This strategic shift could transform the user experience on the web, while disrupting publishers and content creators who depend on Google for their traffic. Google’s announcement followed pressure from investors urging the company to catch up with Microsoft, which had already integrated ChatGPT into its own search engine, Bing.

Google is changing the way we search with AI. It could turn the internet upside down.

Meta seems to be taking a more reserved path.

In February, the company announced the formation of a new product group to accelerate the deployment of generative AI. The group, led by former Apple executive Ahmed Al-Dahle, aims to bring together key teams from research and consumer-focused groups to develop new products, according to the company. Zuckerberg said he anticipates the development of generative AI-powered chat experiences in WhatsApp and Messenger, as well as innovations in business messaging and customer support.

On the research side, Meta has long been a player in the artificial intelligence space. The company’s lab is distinguished in the industry by publishing much of its research publicly. Research projects include technologies that use AI to animate children’s drawings, decode speech from images of brain activity, and enable real-time translation of most languages.

Some believe Meta’s new focus on AI could help overcome threats to its ad-based business model. Increasing competition in the social media market from upstarts like TikTok and new privacy regulations from Apple have hurt the digital advertising market.

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Zuckerberg credited AI last month with getting people to spend more time on Instagram as the company promotes social short videos called Reels. And he reminded investors during an earnings announcement that artificial intelligence drives the way the company recommends content to users, serves ads to consumers, and weeds out infringing and objectionable content — systems that the company “has been working on for many, many years.” is working”.

But meta-executives have tried to dismiss claims in recent weeks that their investment strategy has changed dramatically.

“The narrative has been forming that we’re kind of drifting away from focusing on the vision of the metaverse, so I’ll upfront say that’s not true,” Zuckerberg said last month. “We’ve had a focus on both AI and the metaverse for years, and we will continue to focus on both.”