Facebook appears to be quietly building its own voice assistant to compete with Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.
An unreleased voice search feature was recently uncovered in code from a past version of Facebook’s mobile app by developer Blake Tsuzaki, who shared his findings with Business Insider.
The code, which was uncovered by Tsuzaki and first surfaced by The Next Web’s Matt Navarra on Twitter last week, shows what is evidently an unreleased voice assistant capable of making suggestions and finding basic information like the score of a sports game.
Facebook building a voice assistant for its mobile apps ?
The voice assistant was first spotted in a September version of Facebook’s mobile app, Tsuzaki told BI. “It’s non-functional right now (listens, and then errors out), but I’m finding a way to get it to do a bit more,” he said via email.
A Facebook spokesperson told BI that the voice assistant was not an active feature or user-facing test in the company’s app and declined to comment further. Facebook often tests new features it’s working on with a small percentage of users in the wild before making them more widely available.
The company signalled earlier this year that it wasn’t working on a voice assistant when Messenger chief David Marcus told Variety, “We are not working on that actively right now.”
But people familiar with the matter recently told BI that Facebook is, in fact, working on a voice assistant within Building 8, its mysterious consumer hardware division that was just recently formed. Facebook’s assistant is intended to power the company’s forthcoming video chat device for the home codenamed Aloha, the people said.
Aloha is scheduled to make its official debut in May 2018 and compete with the $US229 Amazon Echo Show, which was released in June.