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Facebook Puts Deep Learning in the Palm of Your Hand


Facebook has built a simple-looking video tool to show off a sophisticated use of artificial intelligence on cell phones.

During an event at its office (FB) in Menlo Park, Calif., last Friday afternoon, Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer showed off software that takes a live Facebook video feed from a cell phone and converts the image in real time into a selection of artistic styles, such as that of Van Gogh.

It might sound like a simple filter, but usually an algorithm of this nature would need to send that type of information back to a server in a data center to process the pixels on more powerful machines. The Facebook crew crafted a less power-hungry and computing-intensive deep learning system they call “Caffe2Go,” that uses the computing power in a cell phone.

Facebook’s Schroepfer showed the algorithm and other applications of artificial intelligence at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon, Portugal on Tuesday. Last Friday, he called the system a “pretty big leap” and “a real neural net running on a phone in real time.”

For more on if Facebook needs humans to decide what’s trending watch our video.

Making artificial intelligence more accessible, more democratized, and available on mobile devices is an important milestone. As more and more systems benefit from artificial intelligence, not all of them can run on the equivalent of supercomputers.

Facebook has been using artificial intelligence for years to tailor user’s feeds or to smooth out a shaky video feed. The company has an internal platform for machine learning called FBLearner Flow that analyzes billions of data points about user activity and predicts things like user’s identities in photos or messages that might be spam.

Artificial intelligence is even at the heart of Facebook’s more futuristic projects, like its connectivity technologies and virtual reality. Facebook calls these newer tech ventures part of its 10-year roadmap.

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As Facebook explores these more experimental systems, the company is also taking more risks.

At Facebook’s Menlo Park office last Friday, Schroepfer showed off a video of the SpaceX rocket explosion in September, which destroyed a satellite that Facebook planned to use to beam Internet service to sub-Saharan Africa. Schroepfer’s comment as the video aired: Facebook’s experiments “don’t always work.”