In superhero movies and TV shows, genius billionaire tech inventors get to have all the cool toys—they just have to make them on their own. Think Batman’s Bruce Wayne and Iron Man’s Tony Stark on the big screen and Supergirl’s Maxwell Lord on the small. But in 2016 that film fiction trope is crossing over into reality with Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement on his Facebook page that his New Year's resolution is to build Tony Stark’s AI personal assistant J.A.R.V.I.S. from the Iron Man films.
In the films J.A.R.V.I.S., which stands for "Just A Rather Very Intelligent System," is an ultra-advanced Siri-like personal digital assistant that Tony Stark created as his own personal butler (in the comics Jarvis was an actual human butler). The digital assistant version of J.A.R.V.I.S. in the films allows Stark to access his personal AI butler via any room in his house, offices, vehicles, or mobile devices and when Stark builds the Iron Man suit, J.A.R.V.I.S. becomes the most significant part of its OS, allowing Stark to issue voice commands to carry out functions as he flies into battle.
But Zuckerberg fans shouldn’t get their hopes up that the king of social media is on the verge of becoming the world’s first superhero. Writing on his Facebook page, Zuckerberg says his J.A.R.V.I.S.-inspired personal digital assistant will be a simpler home-brewed version, more butler and less co-pilot:
"Every year, I take on a personal challenge to learn new things and grow outside my work at Facebook. My challenges in recent years have been to read two books every month, learn Mandarin and meet a new person every day," Zuckerberg wrote. "My personal challenge for 2016 is to build a simple AI to run my home and help me with my work. You can think of it kind of like Jarvis in Iron Man.
I'm going to start by exploring what technology is already out there. Then I'll start teaching it to understand my voice to control everything in our home—music, lights, temperature and so on. I'll teach it to let friends in by looking at their faces when they ring the doorbell. I'll teach it to let me know if anything is going on in Max's room that I need to check on when I'm not with her. On the work side, it'll help me visualize data in VR to help me build better services and lead my organizations more effectively."
Zuckerberg also acknowledges that he’s lucky to have experience working with and learning from the best hardware and software engineers on projects like Internet.org, Oculus, and the AI used in Facebook Messenger—but for his home AI project he’ll be building it entirely by himself. "It's a different kind of rewarding to build things yourself, so this year my personal challenge is to do that," he writes. "This should be a fun intellectual challenge to code this for myself."
Kind of makes your New Year's resolution seems low-key, doesn’t it?
But will Zuck succeed? Only time will tell and he says he’ll be keeping the world updated on his 2016 New Year's resolution as the year progresses.