Meta shakes up the AI ​​unit amid a drive to grow

Facebook is shifting its AI development from central research labs to its product groups, a move aimed at accelerating adoption of the technology as it drives faster growth.

the movement Cut with modern practice At several companies, including Facebook, which have focused AI research efforts in central hubs.

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The social media giant’s parent company announced plans last week to go the other way – to decentralize how it develops advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning tools.

In an online post on Thursday,

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Andrew Bosworth, chief technology officer, said the company’s previous approach, which centered around a few independent research and development centers, made it difficult to integrate new AI capabilities across the business.

“In the new model, we will distribute ownership of these AI systems across the Meta product families,” said Mr. Bosworth. “We believe this will accelerate the adoption of important new technology across the company while allowing us to continue to drive the envelope.”

After posting weak first-quarter earnings and the slowest quarterly sales growth since it went public a decade ago, Meta is looking to extract more value from everything. Javier Oliván, who was appointed last week to succeed outgoing chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg,

Known to focus on growth It will emphasize growth and efficiencies, he said.

As part of the restructuring, Jerome Pesenti, who has led extensive AI research as head of Meta AI for the past four years, is expected to leave at the end of the month. Mr. Pesenti has supervised major projects such as Continuous development of a supercomputer powered by artificial intelligence.

Like Meta, many companies with centralized AI development centers have found it difficult to turn the emerging capabilities they created into commercial assets. With very little involvement from other departments, the hub worked like an AI service that is being outsourced.

“It sends a strong message that they believe it is time to focus on including AI in their products,” Bill Group, director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said of the META reshuffle. He said the shift indicates that the company’s focus will be on identifying business applications of AI, rather than the general pursuit of emerging capabilities for their own good.

John Carville, a spokesperson for Meta, said the overall mission of the company’s AI research effort will remain unchanged under the new structure, as well as much of its leadership. He said that Joel Pinault and Antoine Bordis, who co-led Facebook AI Research, the company’s core artificial intelligence research center, known as FAIR, would remain in those roles.

Andrew Bosworth, chief technology officer of Meta Platforms, at the virtual event last October where Facebook announced its rebranding to Meta and its vision for Metaverse.


picture:

Michael Nagel/Bloomberg News

Going forward, however, the research center itself will operate as part of the Meta Reality Labs Research Group, a division that oversees work on virtual reality, augmented reality and other key components of Metaverse, the company said.

At its annual developer conference in October, CEO

Mark Zuckerberg

He said change the name of Facebook to Meta Platforms Reflecting growth opportunities in Metaverse, where users interact via avatars in video game-like environments, using digital headphones and other tools for work, shopping and play. Most tech experts say the metaverse is still several years away.

In a sign of the company’s commitment, the Reality Labs unit lost nearly $3 billion in the first quarter, as a result of additional spending on developing headphones, software, and other virtual reality tools. However, the unit provided one of the few highlights of Meta’s weak earnings in the first quarter, which It is down 21% from a year ago to $7.46 billionIt generated $695 million in sales, up from $534 million the year before.

Nick van der Meulen, a research scientist at MIT’s Sloan Center for Information Systems Research, said Meta’s shift toward decentralizing AI development “underscores the importance they place on AI’s role in the future of metaverses.”

For a technology-focused organization like Meta, Mr. van der Mullen said, it might not make sense to have future product development hinged on a single organizational unit or group: “They have combined enough experience with AI to become pervasive, and thus intrinsic to all of their products. “.

Allowing a product group, such as Reality Labs, to develop their own technology means they “don’t have to constantly compete for resources from a central team, or prioritize their own development,” said Mr. Van der Mullen. Instead, they can develop their own solutions based on direct feedback from customers, he said.

Eric Schmidt, former CEO of

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Google and Chairman of the Federal National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. “This is a good example of artificial intelligence becoming mainstream.”

write to Angus Loten at angus.loten@wsj.com

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