While Microsoft was busy fine tuning Cortana and Apple preparing for a new and improved Siri, Facebook was quietly laughing up its sleeve as it prepared its own version of a super charged virtual assistant called M.
What makes M different from Siri and Cortana is that Facebook’s new human-powered virtual digital assistant for the popular Messenger combines artificial intelligence with human training and supervision. It can answer any question posed by the user with a little bit of help from a network of Facebook’s call centre-like trainers and even help in booking reservations and buying gifts. At the backend is a vast team of Facebook employees trained in customer service to make the appointments, purchases and arrangements.
The brand new offering from Facebook was announced and explained by Facebook’s messaging boss David Marcus who said, “M is a personal digital assistant inside of Messenger that completes tasks and finds information on your behalf. It’s powered by artificial intelligence that’s trained and supervised by people. Unlike other AI-based services in the market, M can actually complete tasks on your behalf. It can purchase items, get gifts delivered to your loved ones, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments and way more.”
He adds, “It’s an exciting step towards enabling people on Messenger to get things done across a variety of things, so they can get more time to focus on what’s important in their lives.” The service is currently undergoing testing in San Franscisco and the launch date has yet to be confirmed. Once released, it is expected to be a free service available to all Messenger users.
Within the Messenger, users can access M by tapping a small button at the bottom of the app to send a note to M. It works like a normal messaging service. Behind the scenes, the software will analyse the language and pose follow up questions in the same thread and send updates once the work is completed. The people behind the task however will remain a secret since M does not have a gender.