Almost all the Big Tech companies have smart assistants these days except for Facebook. There have been rumors and signs that the social media giant would be coming out with its own but nothing has materialized so far. It might, however, be taking another step in that direction by pushing its own trigger phrase to activate voice commands not only on its Portal smart display but even on the Oculus Quest 2 VR headset.
Although it didn’t make sense years ago, Facebook was time and again rumored or even confirmed to be working on one form of AI-powered assistant or another. Those included the “M” assistant on Messenger but that was mostly intended to assist in shopping activities. With Facebook dipping its fingers in almost everything, it would only be a matter of time before it started making bigger steps in that direction.
To be clear, the Oculus Quest 2 has long had voice commands that could be triggered through physical controls. What Facebook is doing is to allow for complete hands-free operation by simply uttering the magic phrase “Hey, Facebook”. The announcement makes it clear that it is an optional feature that is disabled by default and users have to explicitly toggle that switch if they want to experience it.
Less obvious is the silent change spotted by The Verge where the Portal smart display will also start responding to “Hey, Facebook”. Previously, it was only “Hey, Portal” that could be used but now Facebook’s name will also be able to start video calls.
It isn’t really a surprising step given Facebook’s expansion of its brand to Oculus. It may even make sense in the smart display’s case where “Portal” is as impersonal as it can be. It may, however, suggest that Facebook is already starting the journey that would push the “Hey, Facebook” wake word on the same level as “OK, Google”, “Hey, Siri”, and “Alexa”.