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Aug 28th, 2015
Facebook has revealed that they’re testing a personal assistant called M, which will be placed in the company’s Messenger app.
Many people will compare it with the digital assistants that have been brought about by other companies, such as Siri by Apple, Google Now by Google and the recently released Cortana by Microsoft. But what sets M apart is the fact that it doesn’t fully rely on technology; rather, it’s powered by a combination of artificial and human intelligence. Facebook has employed people to be “M trainers”; that is, they provide human input and work with the company’s engineers to ensure that all queries are properly answered.
Another thing that makes M different from its competitors is that it doesn’t stop at answering questions and finding information upon the user’s request. It’s also capable of completing online purchases, booking flights, making hotel reservations and completing other kinds of tasks. Facebook employees (who were the first ones to test the service) reportedly used M to call their cable company to set up WiFi internet connections and cancel subscriptions, avoiding endless hold times and hundreds of automated messages in the process.
Unlike other digital assistants, M isn’t designed for voice commands. Rather, it’s built for communication through text messages. Users can send a note to M by tapping a small button at the bottom part of their screen, similar to how they initiate conversations with their Facebook friends.
M currently doesn’t pull any information from users’ Facebook accounts to answer questions and complete tasks. But David Marcus, the social network giant’s vice president of messaging products, points out that this may change in the future as they improve the service and obtain users’ consent. Marcus also points out that M can pave the way for businesses to “have a presence inside of Messenger directly” and help them develop better interactions with their customers.
M is available to only a small number of Messenger users in the Bay Area in California, but Facebook plans to develop it into an at-scale service.
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