All my life I dreamed of having a personal assistant, and suddenly there are more than I can handle. Of course, I was talking about human beings, but virtual assistants like Google Now, Siri, and Cortana apparently aren’t enough. Facebook has crashed the party with its own virtual assistant known as “M,” and it has us intrigued.
M is part of the Messenger app and will help you make restaurant reservations, find a birthday gift for your significant other, and even suggest and book weekend getaways.
Sounds too good to be true, but vice president of messaging products at Facebook David Marcus believes that you will be amazed at how much better M is when compared to other virtual assistants.
Facebook is doing for virtual assistants what music streaming services have done for curated radio stations — use human beings. Artificial intelligence can only get you so far, and that’s why Facebook has implemented actual people, or what Marcus calls M trainers, in addition to artificial intelligence.
Another notable difference from other virtual assistants is that M has no gender. In fact, it doesn’t even speak.
How it works is that users are provided with a small button at the bottom of the Messenger app for use in sending M a note. It’s similar to sending your friends a message. The software will decode the language and ask followup questions. M will continue to send updates in the message thread until the task has been completed.
M Trainers have customer service backgrounds and can make judgement calls. For example, M might book an Uber and a restaurant for that special date, but M could also surprise your spouse with flowers.
The service is free, but it’s only being tested with a few hundred people in the Bay Area.
Facebook’s plan is for the social giant to be the first place you go to when you need information. Most people just Google whatever they want or they might ask Google Now or Siri. Marcus’ goal is to make M so powerful you won’t want to go anywhere else. Messenger already has an audience of 700 million users and counting, so it’s now time to take the stage and deliver.