Facebook has launched its own personal assistant, and you'll find it right inside an app you're already using every day: Messenger. Today marks the introduction of M, which VP David Marcus describes as "a personal digital assistant inside of Messenger that completes tasks and finds information on your behalf. It's powered by artificial intelligence that's trained and supervised by people." Previous rumors indicated there would be a human component to Facebook's approach.
Unlike other AI-based services in the market, M can actually complete tasks on your behalf. It can purchase items, get gifts delivered to your loved ones, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments and way more.
So Facebook is positioning M as a step beyond what competing "assistants" like Siri, Google Now, and Cortana are capable of. According to Wired, "a few hundred" Facebook users in the San Francisco bay area will be invited into this first-run test of M. To prevent automated errors, a team of Facebook's own contractors, known as M Trainers, are responsible for pushing M's most powerful features through and booking actual reservations, buying products, and so on.
But the artificial intelligence at play seems significant, with M responding to your initial queries with follow-up questions and updates as tasks move towards completion. And if you're worried about privacy or creepy factor, for now M isn't pulling from your Facebook history to complete any of its functions. This might eventually change though — with permission. (Users are never told whether they're being assisted by a computer or M's human helpers, Wired notes.) Marcus notes that M will expand "slowly" over time, but eventually should make its way to all Facebook users — kicking off a new stage of digital assistant competition with Apple, Google, Microsoft, and smaller companies trying their hand.