Mark Zuckerberg has spent the past nine months on the ropes as his company has made major cuts to its workforce and struggled to gain mainstream traction with its ambitious plans for virtual reality.
On Thursday, Meta told employees how he planned to get the company back on track. All hands in the crowd, Mr. Zuckerberg offered an explanation for the recent layoffs, and for the first time offered a glimpse of how Meta’s work in artificial intelligence will converge with its plans for virtual reality, known as the Metaverse.
Mr. Zuckerberg’s speech was an attempt to rally employees after one of the most tumultuous periods in his company’s 19-year history. The chief executive said he made “difficult decisions” about the layoffs with the goal of “building a better technology company” that shipped better products faster — something he believed Meta underperformed as it peaked at more than 80,000 employees. Epidemic
“I want us to use this period to improve and rebuild our culture,” he said, adding that two people who attended the meeting shared comments and impressions with The New York Times.
Mr. Zuckerberg delivered the remarks in a nearly half-hour speech to thousands of employees at Meta’s Menlo Park, Calif., campus. The speech, delivered in an outdoor pavilion the company calls Hacker Square, was broadcast live to tens of thousands of employees around the world.
It was one of Meta’s few major in-person all-hands meetings in the last three years, and included presentations from other Meta executives Andrew Bosworth, chief technology officer, and Chris Cox, chief product officer.
During the presentation, Mr. Cox explained that it makes good use of one of Meta’s most formidable competitors, TikTok.
Administrators also spoke Project 92, a long-rumored social app on Meta that functions similarly to Twitter. The app will work with other apps like Mastodon and Bluesky, executives said.
Although Meta has been actively working on AI for years, translating that research into consumer products has been slower than competitors like Google and Microsoft. Mr. Zuckerberg said Thursday.
He said that Meta will work on creating artificial intelligence models that are more accessible to more people than his company’s competitors, and eventually, that will apply to his plans for Metaverse.
According to two people who shared the views with The Times, Mr. Zuckerberg said. “But that’s coupled with the product vision of driving different AIs instead of trying to unify ourselves into a single AI that’s trying to rule everything.”
He envisions AI assistants that help people “create content that better expresses you and your ideas,” or an artificially intelligent version of “a coach that advises you, motivates you.”
AI agents can serve customers in products like WhatsApp, the globally popular messaging app, which is meta-focused on becoming an important tool for business owners and customer service. And every business can use a customized AI algorithm.
“Different people have different interests, and we will need a variety of AIs to represent all these different interests,” said Mr. Zuckerberg told the crowd.
To do this, the company is betting heavily on open-source technology, meaning it will share its work on artificial intelligence with researchers who want to build their own algorithms based on what Meta has already done. The company has spent the past decade building systems to power AI and attracting the best researchers to work on the world’s toughest computer science questions around AI.
Meta has been criticized for its approach. researchers and politicians Opening up AI algorithms to the masses could create malicious, automated and intelligent systems that accelerate the spread of misinformation, the company says. Those sophisticated methods, critics say, should be tightly regulated.
In his speech, Mr. Zuckerberg defended Meta’s strategy. Open source software facilitates external scrutiny of the technology because it can be viewed by millions of technology professionals. Working closely with third-party developments will improve Meta’s platforms, he said.
Mr. Zuckerberg said.
That doesn’t mean Meta is backing away from its eponymous Metaverse projects, Mr. Zuckerberg said. Projects that use new formative AI technology could eventually help people create new virtual world objects and experiences, he said. He hinted that the company might bring its AI assistant to a future version of its smart glasses. (Metta released a pair of smart Ray-Ban glasses in 2021, though sales have been sluggish.)
He touted Apple’s recently announced Vision Pro headset, $3,500 high-tech glasses that promised to usher in a new era of “spatial computing.”
“I was very interested to see what they would send, and the fact that they don’t have any magical solutions to the laws of physics that we haven’t already explored is a good sign for our own development,” he said in his remarks. . Mr. Zuckerberg criticized the high-end materials and cost of the device, while noting that Meta has spent years reducing the cost of its headsets. For the upcoming version starting at $500.
“Their announcement really shows how our vision and values diverge and what’s at stake in shaping this platform,” said Mr. Zuckerberg said. “Our vision of the metaverse and existence is fundamentally social and people can interact and feel intimate in new and exciting ways. In contrast, every demo Apple showed was someone sitting alone on a couch.
“Total coffee junkie. Tv ninja. Unapologetic problem solver. Beer expert.”