Meta Shakes Up AI Unit Amid Growth

Facebook is shifting its artificial intelligence development from central research labs to its product groups, a move aimed at accelerating adoption of the technology while pushing for faster growth.

The movement breaks with recent exercise at many companies, including Facebook, which concentrated AI research efforts in centralized hubs.

Metaplatforms Inc.,

The social media giant’s parent company announced plans last week to go the other way: decentralizing the way it develops advanced AI and machine learning tools.

In an online message Thursday,


Chief Technology Officer Andrew Bosworth said the company’s previous approach, centered around a handful of standalone R&D hubs, made it difficult to integrate new AI capabilities across the company.

“In the new model, we will redistribute ownership of these AI systems to


product groups,” said Mr Bosworth. “We believe this will accelerate adoption of key new technology across the company, while also allowing us to continue to push the boundaries.”

Bumping into walls? Battery almost empty? Clumsy controllers? The Meta Quest 2 virtual reality headset – once known as the Oculus Quest 2 – has its flaws. But don’t worry, Joanna Stern of WSJ has tips for solving these problems and more. Photo illustration: Preston Jessee for The Wall Street Journal

After mediocre first quarter results and the slowest quarterly revenue growth since the IPO a decade ago,


wants to get more value out of everything. Javier Olivan, who was named last week to succeed outgoing Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg,

is known for its focus on growth and said he would focus on growth and efficiency.

As part of the restructuring, Jerome Pesenti, who heads


AI for the past four years, is expected to leave at the end of the month. Mr. Pesenti oversaw key projects such as: the continuous development of an AI supercomputer

Like Meta, many companies with central AI development hubs have found it difficult to turn the emerging opportunities they’ve generated into business assets. With little involvement from other divisions, the hubs functioned much like an outsourced AI service.

“It sends a strong signal that they believe it is time to focus on embedding AI into their products,” said Bill Gropp, director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. on the reshuffle of Meta. The shift indicates the company’s focus will be on identifying business applications of AI, rather than a general pursuit of emerging opportunities for their own good, he said.

Jon Carvill, a Meta spokesperson, said the overall mission of the company’s AI research efforts will remain unchanged under the new structure, as will much of its leadership. Joelle Pineau and Antoine Bordes, who together lead Facebook AI Research, the company’s main AI research center known as FAIR, will continue in those roles, he said.

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


Michael Nagle/Bloomberg News

In the future, however, the research hub itself will operate as part of Meta’s Reality Labs Research group, a division that oversees work on virtual reality, augmented reality and other key components of the metaverse, the company said.

At his annual developer conference in October, Chief Executive

Mark Zuckerberg

said to change Facebook’s name to Meta Platforms reflected growth opportunities in the metaverse, where users interact via avatars in video game-like environments, using digital headsets and other tools to work, shop and play. Most tech experts say the metaverse is still several years away.

Indicating the company’s commitment, the Reality Labs unit lost nearly $3 billion in the first quarter, the result of additional spending on developing headsets, software and other VR tools. Still, the unit delivered one of the few highlights of Meta’s pale results in the first quarter, which: decreased 21% from a year ago to $7.46 billion: It generated revenue of $695 million, up from $534 million a year earlier.

Nick van der Meulen, a research scientist at the Sloan Center for Information Systems Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said Meta’s shift to decentralize AI development “highlights the importance they place on the role of AI in the future of the metaverse.” .”

For a technology-focused organization like Meta, Mr. Van der Meulen said, it may no longer make business sense to rely on a single organizational unit or group for future product development: “They have accumulated enough AI experience to make it work.” have become ubiquitous, and thus the core of all their products,” he said.

Allowing a product group, such as Reality Labs, to develop their own technology means that “they don’t have to constantly compete for resources from a centralized team, or lay out their case for development priorities,” said Mr. Van der Meulen. Instead, they can develop their own solutions based on direct customer feedback, he said.

“Think of it as research first, then ultimately you need good technical management and results,” said Eric Schmidt, former CEO of

Alphabet Inc.’s

Google and chairman of the federal National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. “This is a great example of how AI is becoming mainstream.”

write to Angus Lots at [email protected]

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