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Mark Zuckerberg presents his “metaverse”



Translate directly between dozens of languages, create your own virtual universe with simple voice commands, bring artificial intelligence (AI) to unsuspected heights. These are essentially the promises for the “metaverse” that Meta CEO and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg presented Wednesday during a 2:30+ event.

The heart of the ambitions of Meta, Facebook’s new name, for its immersive virtual world, is the development of artificial intelligence. Two Montreal luminaries also participated in this presentation: Joëlle Pineau, professor at McGill University and co-director of Facebook AI Research, as well as Yoshua Bengio, full professor at the University of Montreal.

build a world

“The type of experiences you will have in the metaverse are beyond what is possible today, announced Mark Zuckerberg from the outset. It’s an immersive version of the internet: instead of just looking at something on the screen, you’re going to feel like you’re inside or present with another person. »

The CEO of Meta went there with a demonstration, one of the first clearly showing what this metaverse could be. A tool called Builder Bot allows two friends, represented by their avatar, to find themselves in a completely blank virtual world.

The narrator, Mark Zuckerberg, announces: “Let’s go to the park”, and a green landscape appears. He then asks to go to the beach, add an island in the middle of the ocean in the distance, put clouds, a table, a stereo, sounds of waves and seagulls on it. To wrap it all up, the narrator calls for some tropical music, which plays instantly.

” Not bad huh ? added Mr. Zuckerberg. As we evolve this technology, you will be able to create nuanced worlds to explore and share experiences with others, simply by voice. But there are a lot of challenges we have to overcome to get there. »

“Superpower” in the making

All of these challenges are essentially artificial intelligence, with which we first want to considerably improve the translation tools.

One of Meta’s most ambitious projects has been announced, a “universal speech translator” capable of handling dozens of languages.

In total, it was specified, we are working on some 10,000 combinations between different languages, to go directly from one to the other rather than passing through English as is currently the case.

“The ability to communicate with anyone in any language is a superpower that we have always dreamed of, and that AI will deliver to us in our lifetime,” said Zuckerberg. This program was called “No language left behind”.

The favored method for these advances, which offers a rather impressive potential if we rely on the results of the researchers, is that of “self-supervised learning”. Essentially, the AI ​​is left to do its own experiments rather than subjecting it to millions of human-tagged comparisons. The image evoked: that of a child having fun with blocks rather than planted in front of a television screen.

The Montreal researcher Joëlle Pineau notably presented it with robotic arms capable of learning by themselves to manipulate objects. “You can teach the sense of touch to an AI, she explained, create models that will operate in the real world as well as in the virtual world. »


Montreal researcher Joëlle Pineau presented an AI controlling robotic arms capable of learning by themselves to manipulate objects.

Ethical pitfalls

But as Yoshua Bengio reminded us, “we are still far from an AI that reaches the level of humans. There are problems that humans are good at, but machines are not. One of these great challenges, as we mentioned several times during this presentation, is to design ethical and unbiased artificial intelligences. Privacy, a topic that has embroiled Facebook in controversy for years, was also brought up.

“We are committed to building in a transparent and responsible way, promised Mark Zuckerberg. We have an opportunity to build a safer and better digital environment for all of us. Which means creating AI-powered technologies that ensure the highest levels of privacy and help prevent harm. »

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