There’s no denying that Iron Man is awesome. In the years since Robert Downey Jr. (Spider-Man: Homecoming) first began playing the superhero, Tony Stark has had a resurgence in popularity and acclaim. Yet for all the heroism displayed, there’s no denying that Iron Man is little more than just a guy in a suit. A particularly awesome suit, granted, but still just a suit. What gives Tony that extra edge is his AI sidekick, Jarvis.
Though the disembodied assistant voiced by Paul Bettany has since evolved into the Vision, a superhero in his own right, much of Stark’s early successes can be either directly or indirectly attributed to the help of Jarvis, who guided Iron Man through various battles by offering up to the moment tactical information and strategic advice. A butler in the comic books, within the MCU Jarvis has become a sort of stand in for the hopes of AI dreamers everywhere, a sort of ever present guide that assists users in their day to day activities.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been working on the development of a digital assistant for some time. While it may not be quite as advanced as Iron Man’s, Zuckerberg is apparently ready to give a voice to his AI, according to a Facebook post made yesterday. After asking for suggestions as to who he should use to voice his assistant, Zuckerberg got quite the surprise when Downey himself offered up his services (with a few considerations), saying, "I'll do in a heartbeat if Bettany gets paid and donates it to a cause of Cumberbatch's choosing... that's the right kind of STRANGE!"
Not only do the masses seem to be into the idea, if the number of likes Downey's comment received is anything to go by, but Zuckerberg himself responded positively to the offer, saying, “This just got real.”
There’s no reason to think Downey was just playing along, especially if he can use the money towards a worthy cause. Zuckerberg, for his part, is a well-known philanthropist who co-founded the Chan Zuckerberg Institute, with the goal to use technology to improve lives and "advance human potential." The creation of a functional AI assistant would certainly fall into that purview, and Downey’s involvement would certainly bring more attention to the project. Not that Zuckerberg needs the star power to draw attention, especially if it’s an impressive program, but the idea of a Downey voiced virtual assistant would is definitely exciting.