Facebook has just launched a new virtual assistant inside the Messenger app called Facebook M. The feature essentially strives to help users complete tasks and provide information like other virtual assistants, but with a more personal touch. It goes ahead and does a whole lot more than normal virtual assistants with the help of human intervention. Also Read - Facebook to soon allow Messenger users to directly chat with WhatsApp users on the platformAlso Read - WhatsApp: Over 1.4 billion video and voice calls made on New Year's Eve globally
This feature is currently rolled out only to limited users in the Bay Area for testing. A band of Facebook employees called ‘M trainees’ have been deployed specifically to cater to these users’ needs. In the blog post, the company says that Facebook M can do things like buy items for you, get gifts delivered and even book restaurant reservations or appointments.
For example, if you are having a conversation with your friends about buying shoes, the assistant will help you with nearby shops where you can buy shoes, and even give you options to buy online. While making dinner plans, Facebook M automatically asks if it can book a table for you. It essentially aims to unload the users from mundane tasks and do them.
Once you get M in the Messenger app, you will notice a small button at the bottom that allows you to send a query to M. It will then decode the message and deliver results accordingly. Interestingly, M does not have a gender, unlike Siri and Cortana.
We start capturing all of your intent for the things you want to do. Intent often leads to buying something, or to a transaction, and that s an opportunity for us to [make money] over time, David Marcus, vice president of messaging products at Facebook told Wired.
Siri and Cortana rely on artificial intelligence to provide any information. They do not have any human intervention behind their service. While even Facebook M is driven by artificial intelligence but once enough data is captured from the users, M Trainees will kick in and take the necessary action.
However, it is not like such services do not exist. Virtual assistant services in India like Haptik and GoodServices are manned by a team of people and they aim to offer users everything from flight options to customer support. These services are available in India on both iOS and Android platforms, and strive to provide assistance within as soon as five minutes to its users.
Facebook M is partially mechanized and partially intervened by humans to provide a comprehensive solution. It learns from human behavior, and will give more user satisfactory answers over time. Marcus said that the service is free and will be available to all Facebook Messenger users slowly.
With 700 million Facebook Messenger users worldwide, M has a lot of potential. However, scaling would become a challenge sooner than later. Currently, the M trainers are demographically capable to cater to the needs of Bay Area residents only, but as Facebook M expands, it will deploy relevant manpower for users in those regions.