At the beginning of 2016 Mark Zuckerberg set himself a challenge – to build a smart home AI called Jarvis that would allow him to control everything from turning on and off the lights to waking up his daughter in the morning with Mandarin lessons. Fast forward to the end of 2016 and Mark has achieved much of what he set out to do, with a little help from Crestron’s home automation system and Morgan Freeman’s voice.

Fast Company caught up with Zuckerberg at his 113-year-old home in Silicon Valley where the Facebook CEO gave the magazine a tour of his new Jarvis AI. While it has taken him all of 2016 to get it ready, he notes that it’s still not perfect with tasks often taking several tries before they actually function.

Zuckerberg is no stranger to home automation, his lighting, doors and thermostat were already controlled by a Crestron automation system, while he also utilised Sonos for multi-room streaming and a Samsung TV for enjoying TV. The problem he faced was connecting all of that to his home-grown AI.

As the CEO of Facebook, Zuckerberg’s home security is a top priority – and his home network is part of Facebook’s corporate infrastructure. What that means is everything that connects to the network has to have a Facebook security certificate – and those aren’t available on the vast majority of internet-connected products out there.

Despite that, Zuckerberg came up with some rather clever workarounds – such as acquiring internet-connected switches so he could turn appliances on and off, rather than buying smart appliances straight off the shelf. One example of this is how Zuckerberg acquired a 1950s toaster that he could stuff with bread the previous night and push it down, and then ask Jarvis to turn on the toaster, at which point the bread will begin to brown and eventually pop up ready to eat.

Jarvis came at a particularly interesting time, given Zuckerberg could have easily acquired an Amazon Echo or Google Home – but that wouldn’t be any fun would it? That’s the whole reason he set out on this task, to challenge himself to build a smart home AI that would not only function well, but also not annoy his wife, Priscilla, or disturb his one-year old daughter, Max.

Despite his time being extremely precious, Zuckerberg has spent between 100 and 150 hours on building Jarvis, and while it’s no where near perfect, the CEO is proud to compare it to mainstream competitors, such as Amazon Echo or Google Home.

Jarvis works through a custom iPhone app, as well as through Facebook Messenger as a bot. That means Zuckerberg and his wife can either talk into their phones to perform actions, or type it to a bot on Messenger if they don’t feel like talking. The capabilities of Jarvis are the same no matter which platform is used, but it can turn lights on and off, play music based on personal tastes, open the front gate, control the temperature and more.

Much of the Jarvis AI has been built using existing Facebook tools, including image and voice recognition. Despite the tools from his company and his expertise, the system isn’t quite perfect just yet. When Fast Company visited his Palo Alto residence, it noted that it took four attempts to turn the lights off.

If the CEO wanted a more reliable experience, then he could have easily installed an Amazon Echo in his home and with the Crestron Alexa skill controlled his home using his voice. Despite that, Zuckerberg is proud of his achievement. He was also able to completely customise the AI to his and his wife’s personal tastes – something the Amazon Echo isn’t capable of.

To find out more about Zuckberg’s smart home, check out Fast Company’s full interview.


Seems like Zuckerberg is a big fan of Crestron, taking to his Facebook account to advocate for all-in-one control solution, rather than a device specific one.


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