May 21, 2024

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Meta is piloting its automated chatbot across WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger in India and Africa

Meta is piloting its automated chatbot across WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger in India and Africa

Image credits: Brian Heater

Meta confirmed to TechCrunch that it is testing Meta AI, a large language model-powered chatbot, with WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger users in India and parts of Africa. The move indicates how Meta plans to leverage its massive user bases across its various applications to expand the scope of its AI offerings.

The social media giant is scrambling to roll out more AI services in the wake of big AI moves from other big tech companies, such as OpenAI and others.

Meta announced plans to build and pilot chatbots and other AI tools in February 2023. India, where users have recently begun to notice the rise of the Meta AI chatbot, is a very important market for the company: it is home to more than 500 million Facebook and WhatsApp users, making it the largest market Solo for Meta.

Users in Africa have also reported Meta AI tags appearing in WhatsApp.

Meta confirmed the move in a statement. β€œOur AI-generated experiences are in development at various stages, and we are publicly testing a bunch of them in a limited capacity,” a Meta spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Meta unveiled Meta AI, its general-purpose assistant, in September 2023. The AI-powered chatbot is designed to answer user queries directly within chats as well as give them the ability to create photo-realistic images from text prompts. In the case of Instagram, there is evidence that it is also used for search queries.

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Meta has been somewhat late in creating and deploying AI tools for its users. In part, her teams assumed that generative AI technology wasn't quite ready for prime time. Obviously, OpenAI proved that wrong, putting MetaAI in an awkward position.

β€œThe availability of ChatGPT has somehow captured the interest and enthusiasm of the public,” said Yann LeCun, Turing Award winner and chief AI scientist at Meta, speaking earlier this week at the company's β€œAI Day” at its London offices. . “What was surprising to people like me about ChatGPT wasn't the technology or the performance of the system. It was the amount of interest it gathered from the public. That surprised everyone. It surprised OpenAI, too,” he explained. Meta believes AI chatbots, based on its own efforts to launch them, will β€œThey weren't particularly welcome…in fact, some of them were destroyed by people.” Now, he described the company and the wider tech community, as “more open and more comfortable releasing prototypes.”

This is what Meta is doing now. In practical terms, there are three reasons why Meta is moving forward with its AI strategy.

First, in terms of user retention (users now expect to see AI tools in their apps and want to use them; if Meta doesn't provide them with these tools, the worry is that those users will turn away).

Second, to retain investors (investors want strong earnings, sure, but in technology they also want to see signs that Meta is committed to supporting and building what many believe will be the next generation of computing).

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Third, for its pride (it's been setting the pace for a lot in areas like mobile apps, social media and advertising over the past decade, and has major talent on its bench, including renowned AI academic Yann LeCun. Is that really going to jump the shark and miss out on all this?!).

Instagram and WhatsApp's massive global user base, with billions of monthly active users, certainly presents Meta with a very unique opportunity to scale its AI offerings. By integrating Meta AI into WhatsApp and Instagram, Facebook's parent company could expose its advanced linguistic model and image generation capabilities to a massive audience, potentially dwarfing the reach of its competitors β€” at least on paper.

The company separately confirmed earlier this week that it will launch Llama 3, the next version of its large open-source language model, within the next month.

The story has been updated with more details and to note that Meta is also testing Meta AI across Instagram and Messenger alongside WhatsApp.