Not one to be left out of Silicon Valley’s latest trend, it appears Facebook too has plans to launch a virtual assistant of their very own. Dubbed simply “M,” the new virtual assistant can “complete tasks and finds information on your behalf.” You know, the usual stuff like book restaurants, make travel arrangements, purchase items, deliver gifts, etc. Because Facebook doesn’t have an operating system of their own, M only works inside Messenger.
It may sound a little scary but don’t worry. Facebook says the AI was trained and is actively being supervised by real people (“M trainers”) so that’s somewhat comforting. They also mention that their goal is to eventually build M into an at-scale service, but right now they’re starting out small with testing only underway for Messenger users around the Bay Area.
To get started, users will message “M” the same way they’d message anyone else on Messenger. Start by asking it a question the same as any other virtual assistant, only M will followup with additional questions, eventually allowing the user to book a table at a restaurant or whatever else. The user will never know if or when they’re talking with a robot, or an actual person.
It’s definitely an interesting take on the whole virtual assistant thing. While Google Now is a novel idea — information available without having to search — it often times misses the mark. No matter who smart computers become, sometimes a human touch is needed and that’s what Facebook hopes will drive people to using M over competing services.