Facebook just announced testing of a new personal assistant inside its Messenger app, taking on Google Now, Siri and Cortana. But Facebook seeks to one-up the competition by actually completing tasks for you with the help of artificial intelligence, “trained and supervised” by real people on the back-end.
Facebook is taking a different approach from the competition by employing Messenger, using a conversational question and answer format. Users are encouraged to chat with M, seeking information and advice, as well as asking M to complete such tasks as ordering flowers for Mother’s Day.
In his post, David Marcus of Facebook explains:
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.
M’s method of assisting people is reminiscent of the startup Magic, a service that also uses texting to complete tasks like delivering food, but through regular SMS. Magic is staffed by “trained operators” 24 hours a day.
The implementation of M continues Facebook’s strategy of incorporating additional functions and services inside its core messaging service, echoing WeChat and LINE. Those companies have also added shopping, payment and other services to their respective messaging apps.
Facebook's exact strategy to scale M is unclear, but initial testing will limit the effort to a few hundred testers in the Bay Area near its Menlo Park headquarters, according to Wired.