'Hey Facebook,' How About Not?

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Chances are you’re probably familiar with using a command like, “OK Google,” “Hey Siri,” or “Alexa” to summon a voice assistant. But now, the company that brought you pokes and likes—and who could forget fake news?— is trying to add, “Hey Facebook” to your rotation.

Facebook’s new vocal command officially rolled out today with the company’s announcement that it’s introducing “Hey Facebook” as an opt-in wake phrase on the Oculus Quest 2 to help deliver a more seamless hands-free VR experience.

However, as The Verge discovered, the “Hey Facebook” command can now also be used with Facebook’s Portal devices instead of the existing “Hey Portal” wake phrase to ask questions or perform functions like starting a video call.


Now on a certain level, as we continue moving into this era of ambient computing where you don’t have to be sitting in front of a monitor and keyboard to actually use a computer, the addition of another wake phrase to everyday use shouldn’t come as a big surprise.

However, there’s something that just feels off about “Hey Facebook,” and after ruminating on it a bit, I think I’ve figured out why. The difference between “Hey Facebook” and other voice command triggers is that when you are directing a question to Siri or Alexa, you are directing your request to a specific entity, which in this case is an AI-powered digital assistant. And even though, “OK Google” would seem to be the same as “Hey Facebook,” Google has always made it clear that you are talking to the Google Assistant, not the company itself. (For what it’s worth, I still think the Google Assistant badly needs some kind of normal, human name.)


But with Facebook, there is no assistant or AI to speak. Facebook killed its previous assistant M, so with “Hey Facebook,” it feels like you are calling out to the faceless company that reminds people when your birthday is and keeps tabs on unspecified amounts of personal data. In the same fashion, “Hey Facebook” is also different from saying “Hey Portal,” which inherently refers to a specific device in your home. “Hey Facebook” just doesn’t feel the same.

So while saying “Hey Facebook” is extremely weird, that won’t stop Facebook from pushing its new wake phrase instead of alternatives like “Hey Portal” or even “Hey Oculus.” Facebook usually gets what it wants, even if it’s something no one else is on board with.