Facebook is going head to head with Microsoft and Apple this year with the introduction of M, your new personal assistant from Facebook. This feature will sit inside of Facebook Messenger, completing tasks and finding information on your behalf.
Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana have been around a while, but M has a number of new features that set it apart from its rivals. M is a hybrid; It’s a virtual assistant powered by artificial intelligence as well as a band of Facebook employees, dubbed M trainers, who will make sure that every request is answered.
David Marcus, vice president of Facebook messaging products states that unlike other AI services, M can complete tasks such as, finding the perfect birthday gift for your spouse or suggesting and booking weekend getaways!
You would never necessarily know whether it was a computer or a real person you were talking to; but simple questions like, ‘what is the weather today’ would probably be answered using artificial intelligence and more difficult queries will be answered by an actual person.
To try the new service, users will tap a small button at the bottom of the Messenger app to send a note to M, the same way they might message anyone on Facebook.
However, M faces a big challenge in terms of accessibility. Siri and Cortana are integrated on mobile devices, whereas M can only be accessed via the Facebook Messenger app.
It’s not hard to imagine the business opportunities that M could create. For one, Facebook could partner with companies to offer a more direct, efficient service over Messenger.
Facebook is already helping firms offer customer service through Messenger. At the company’s March developer conference, Marcus announced Businesses on Messenger, a feature that allows businesses to send receipts, notify customers their packages have shipped, and provide basic customer service.
Facebook states it is in the early stages of developing M, but it’s an exciting step towards enabling people to use Facebook to get things done. A few hundred people in San Francisco will be the first to test the system.
We don’t think this system will be cheap! If Facebook is to eventually roll it out to all its users, it will either have to wait until its humans teach its AI to handle most requests automatically, or it will have to spend a fortune hiring an army of people to assist its assistant.
The roll out will more than likely be slow, but we’ll be keeping an eye out for it!