The newest personal assistant: Facebook’s M

M example

The newest personal assistant: Facebook’s M

September 4, 2015

Rivaled by Siri, Google Now and Microsoft Cortana, Facebook sent another player into the digital personal assistant game. Say hello to M.

M works through Facebook’s Messenger app. Instead of saying a command, you can simply type it out, and M will start a conversation with you. Within minutes, M will begin to complete your desired tasks.

What makes M different?

Unlike the other personal assistants, M helps you complete tasks and find information. According to David Marcus, Facebook’s VP of messaging products, “It can purchase items, get gifts delivered to your loved ones, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments and way more.”

It is a different kind of digital personal assistant that goes a step beyond the others. Ask M where to go for dinner, and it will give you great suggestions as well as book a reservation.

M is also powered by a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and humans. This hybrid between people and technology allows for a unique personal assistant experience. None of the others use actual humans to complete tasks.

Wired explains it like this: “If you ask M to plan a birthday dinner for your friend, the software might book the Uber and the restaurant, but a person might surprise your friend at the end of the night by sending over birthday cupcakes from her favorite bakery.” This type of approach sets M apart from the other digital personal assistants. However, you won’t be able to tell if you are communicating with a person or a robot.

Another interesting aspect is that M can eventually learn your habits and preferences, making it easier to get your tasks done. Facebook wants to make M the ultimate personal assistant and the first place people turn for their questions and task completion needs.

In the testing phase

Testing for M began at the end of August. A few hundred lucky people in the San Francisco Bay Area are part of the testing phase for this digital personal assistant. However, through internal tests, M has already had practice completing tasks for Facebook employees. CheatSheet explains that M has been asked “to help organize dinner parties, track down an unusual beverage, or even call the cable company and endure long hold times or automated messages. In that last use case, a person [rather than AI] sits on hold for you.”

M has a long way to go before it can be available to every Facebook Messenger user. Part of this process will include advancements in artificial intelligence and determining how to scale the human factor. Marcus anticipates that Facebook will employ thousands of M trainers. Facebook hopes that M will give people more time to focus on what is important and less time on tedious tasks.


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Posted by David Marcus on Wednesday, August 26, 2015