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Facebook’s ‘Talk the Walk’ AI guide can help you navigate without access to GPS

Facebook is working on a new Artificial Intelligence (AI) program called ‘Talk the Walk’, which will be able to give walking directions without actually knowing your location. How is that possible? Well, the AI is going to do this by asking directions.

Researchers at the University of Montreal in Canada and Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research (FAIR) scientists have recently published a report, where they describe this in more detail.

In the opening of the paper, the researchers introduce the AI by saying:

We introduce the Talk the Walk dataset, where the aim is for two agents, a “guide” and a “tourist”, to interact with each other via natural language in order to achieve a common goal: having the tourist navigate towards the correct location. The guide has access to a map and knows the target location, but does not know where the tourist is; the tourist has a 360-degree view of the world but knows neither the target location on the map nor the way to it. The agents need to work together through communication in order to successfully solve the task.

Breaking that down into simpler words, basically, the AI wouldn’t use GPS to tell you where to head next. Instead, you, as the “tourist”, can just prompt the AI in the same way you would ask a human. You can just tell the AI that ‘I am next to the xyz store, where do I head from here?’ The AI will then try to figure out where exactly you are, it may also ask you a question like ‘Do you see a bus stand 200 m ahead of you?’, in order narrow down where exactly you are. Once it knows where you are, it will direct you to your destination.

Now, the question I had in my head when I read about this AI, was why should I use the Facebook AI over Google Maps, which is not only efficient but also reliable. I’m also perfectly comfortable with it and it just works. And anyway, if you’re in a place with no GPS signal, you’re either underground or on another planet.

However, the fact that the Facebook AI would not need GPS might mean good things for my battery life.

As a proof of concept, it’s exciting, but will it really be that useful? I don’t know.

Having said that, this Facebook AI is currently only on a white paper and there is no solid news on whether we will actually see the AI turning into reality.

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