In Italy, Zuckerberg Talks Disaster Assistance and His Robot Butler
Mark Zuckerberg talked up Facebook's plans to expand its artificial intelligence and safety check features at a town hall discussion yesterday in Italy.
Taking questions from an audience at a university in Rome, Zuckerberg expressed his condolences following the deadly earthquake that ravaged central Italy last week. He also used the opportunity to highlight his social network's ability to mark people as "safe" in natural disasters.
Almost half of the Facebook users in the earthquake zone used safety check, Zuckerberg said. "That sends notifications reassuring their family that they were OK to more than 15 million people around the world," he said.
After a botched activation of the feature following a terrorist bombing in Pakistan, Facebook announced in June that it is exploring ways to let users, rather than its employees, activate the feature. It's unclear if those procedures had an effect in Italy last week, but Zuckerberg told the audience he was working on it.
"The next thing we need to do is make it so that communities can trigger it themselves when there is some disaster," he said.
Artificial intelligence, meanwhile, is a commercial product for Facebook in the form of bots, and a personal pet project for Zuckerberg. In January, he described his effort to automate his home as "kind of like Jarvis in Iron Man."
The effort is still in progress, Zuckerberg said today, but he described its current state as being able to respond to simple voice commands. That suggests he is using Amazon Alexa or a similar form of voice-integrated smart home technology.
"I got it to this point where now, I can control the lights, I can control the gates, I can control the temperature, much to the chagrin of my wife, who now cannot control the temperature because it is programmed to listen only to my voice," he said. Zuckerberg plans to show off his automated home "next month," so we'll soon know exactly what tech he's using.