Lift the curtain on almost any tool on Facebook, and you're likely to see a robot at the controls. That's because artificial intelligence (AI) is responsible for powering things like automatic tagging and newsfeed.
To make their AI even more intelligent, Facebook researchers are harnessing the power of fantasy fiction—they're teaching it the Lord of the Rings.
According to Popular Science, the social media behemoth is working on an AI, called Memory Network, that can understand and remember a story, and even answer questions about it. Any story could be used, but researchers taught Memory Network a short summary of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy saga Lord of the Rings. Memory Network is powered by deep learning, a statistical approach that allows the AI to improve over time.
Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer presented Memory Network at a developer's conference in San Francisco in March. He said the AI's ability to answer questions about Frodo and the ring shows it understands how people, objects, and time in the narrative are related.
Though Memory Network's knowledge of the Lord of the Rings is very stripped down, it's a first step into an AI that has a common sense understanding of the relationships between objects and topics, something that's so far been very difficult to encode in computers.
Eventually the AI could be used to improve newsfeed and search, Schroepfer said, because it's relationship understanding qualities would know what you're interested in before you even ask for it. If the AI can deduce that you're a dog person and not a cat person, for example, from your dog pictures you share, and therefore a smart newsfeed would show you a lot more videos of puppies and fewer cat videos.
"By building systems that understand the context of the world, understand what it is you want—we can help you there," Schroepfer said at the conference. "We can build systems that make sure all of us spend time on things we care about."
You can see how the AI works in the short video below. Asked "where was the ring before Mount Doom?" the AI was able to deduce that the ring was in the Shire. (Spoilers: Frodo and Sam make it). The AI references passages and sentences that give it the information it wants to know.
Some of the leading minds in AI research are working at Facebook to build intelligent machines. One of the group's more recent advances is a technology called Memory Networks, which enables a machine to perform relatively sophisticated question answering, as in this example of a machine answering questions about a Lord of the Rings synopsis.Posted by Facebook Engineering on Thursday, March 26, 2015
It's also part of a larger project called "Embed the World," a project aimed at teaching machines to better understand reality by representing relationships between things as "images, posts, comments, photos, and video," according to Popular Science.
Yann LeCun, Facebook's AI research director told Popular Science that the project can tag photos taken in the same place based on the image and the caption alone.
Memory Network is just one example of Facebook's increased investment in AI. Facebook's digital assistant M uses some AI. They're also working on image recognition for video.