Meta, the tech giant formerly known as Facebook, has announced a strategic shift in its research and development, emphasizing artificial intelligence (AI) as a key focus area. This move, as stated by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, signifies a major reorientation of the company’s vision and resources. The announcement, made through the Instagram-linked app Threads, indicates a pivot from Meta’s previously highlighted commitment to the metaverse, a virtual reality space that the company had been pursuing since its rebranding in 2021.
Expansion of AI research teams
At the core of this strategic shift is the expansion of Meta’s main AI research groups – FAIR (Facebook AI Research) and GenAI. Zuckerberg’s announcement details plans to intensify efforts in building “general intelligence” AI technologies. This includes substantial investment in infrastructure, notably the acquisition of approximately 350,000 Nvidia H100s, contributing to a total compute power equivalent of around 600,000 H100s. This investment underscores the company’s commitment to advancing AI technology.
Despite the shift in focus, Zuckerberg maintains that AI and the metaverse remain interconnected elements of Meta’s long-term vision. He envisions a future where AI plays a pivotal role in daily interactions, facilitated through devices like smart glasses developed in collaboration with Ray-Ban. This perspective suggests that AI will not only enhance virtual experiences in the metaverse but also integrate seamlessly into everyday life.
Financial implications and challenges
The redirection towards AI research follows a period of significant financial losses for Meta’s Reality Labs division, responsible for the company’s VR operations and metaverse projects. According to CNBC, Reality Labs reported losses exceeding $37 billion from the fourth quarter of 2020 through the third quarter of 2023. This financial reality has likely influenced the company’s decision to realign its focus towards AI, a field experiencing a surge in interest and development since the emergence of technologies like ChatGPT in late 2022.
The road ahead for Meta
Meta’s journey in AI research has not been without its challenges. Notably, the company faced criticism over its science-focused AI model, Galactica, which was withdrawn from public access just three days after its release. The model was criticized for generating content that, while seemingly credible, was flagged as biased and akin to “pseudo-science” by members of the scientific community.
Meta’s strategic shift towards AI, while retaining its vision for the metaverse, marks a significant transition in the company’s focus. With substantial investments in AI research and infrastructure, coupled with the lessons learned from past endeavors, Meta is positioning itself at the forefront of the rapidly evolving AI landscape.