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The Facebook M digital assistant is part human, part AI

Richard Easton
27 Aug 2015
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Facebook is bringing digital assistant capabilities to its Facebook Messenger

Between Google Now, Siri and Cortana, Facebook must have been feeling a little left out in the cold without a digital assistant friend to call its own. That's all set to change with the introduction of M, a new digital assistant that brings a level of automation and assistance to Facebook Messenger. The only important caveat, for now, is that the service is only being trialled to select users in the Bay Area, according to Wired.

M, according to a Facebook post from David Marcus, vice President of messaging products at Facebook, will be an amalgamation of artificial intelligence with supervised people, known as "M Trainers". The digital assistant will, according to Marcus, have the edge over its rivals as rather than just providing context sensitive information or answering questions, M will actually be able to complete tasks for you.

"It can purchase items, get gifts delivered to your loved ones, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments and way more." This is largely where the human component will be at its advantage and also why there's only a small-scale trial. "This is early in the journey to build M into an at-scale service. But 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."

Facebook M screenshot 3

Facebook has given examples of using Facebook M to help find places to eat or recommending gift ideas, which is a level of personal touch rival services haven't quite managed to achieve.

I'll be excited to see the results of the San Francisco area trial and whether or not M can take digital assistants to the next level of convenience. Facebook could well find it has a battle on its hands in convincing users to abandon Google Now, Siri or Cortana, considering these are all baked into their respective operating systems. If it works as well as Marcus proposes, it could be the one digital assistant to rule them all (or at least a service to have a conversation with that isn't Cleverbot).

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