Meta Working on Generative AI Chatbots With Personalities

(Photo by JD Lasica under CC BY 2.0)

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How would you like to ask Abraham Lincoln about good lunch spots?

It looks like Meta’s first big generative AI-powered addition to its platforms will be a collection of chatbots that users can talk to, as reported by the Financial Times on Tuesday. Company sources told the FT the chatbots could be ready to debut as early as September, and will offer some search functionality besides just being fun. The idea is to engage more users, but if Meta has been watching semi-rival Snapchat closely, it knows chatbots hold a trove of user data for targeted ads.

A New Seam

Meta already leaned into the generative AI bonanza two weeks ago when it released Llama 2, an open-source large language model which other businesses can use to build chatbots of their own. The chatbots in the works are aimed squarely at the billions of people already on Meta’s Facebook and Instagram social media platforms.

Sources told the FT that Meta is working on a clutch of chatbots with different personas, a twist that would give them a quirky selling point compared with rivals like Chat-GPT. The choice of personalities seems random at first, but on second glance they look geared toward keeping users reassured:

  • One persona the company has experimented with is a chatbot that sounds like Abraham Lincoln, while another that makes recommendations about travel is meant to sound more like a surfer dude. Why not combine the two — we’ve already had Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, is Abraham Lincoln: Point Break such a stretch?
  • Nice, affable personas like Honest Abe could be key in getting users to open up to chatbots run by a company that’s constantly trying to shake the image of siphoning your data, but the likelihood is that’ll be a big part of the product.

When Snap introduced a similar AI chatbot to its platform in February, it found a new trove of opportunities for targeted advertising. The advantages were twofold: Advertisers could pay to place sponsored links into conversations with users (basically the chat equivalent of sponsored ads at the top of Google searches) and the conversations themselves could be added to the pile of personalized user data. A Meta spokesperson declined to comment on the FT’s report when contacted by The Daily Upside.

Metaversal: Generative AI may have dimmed the metaverse’s limelight, but one source told the FT that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is considering ways to combine the two, specifically mentioning an idea that a chatbot could be given an avatar in the metaverse. “Zuckerberg is spending all his energy and time on ideating about this,” the source said. If at first you don’t succeed… throw AI at it.