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Facebook’s Launches Human-Powered Virtual Assistant ‘M’

August 26, 2015 - Written By Justin Diaz

Virtual assistant apps are all the rage right now, with Google and Apple both offering their own versions to users of their mobile OS platform through Apple’s Siri and Google’s Google Now. Other competitors have emerged too like the recently announced Hound Beta from the team behind the Sound Hound app which showed up earlier this year. Even Microsoft’s Cortana has made its way over to the Android platform. Now another big company in the tech space is set to offer users their own version of a virtual assistant: Facebook. Today Facebook is launching its own Siri and Google Now Competitor called M.

According to Facebook’s David Marcus who is VP of the messaging products at Facebook, M holds a substantial benefit that its competitors don’t have, which is information and data driven by real users in addition to the artificial intelligence aspect. Marcus actually states that M is capable of “performing tasks that none of the others can.” Using the combination of Facebook’s digital technology plus a collection of employees staffed specifically for this service called M Trainers, M is boasted to have the power to complete just about any task or answer any question given to it by its user, with Marcus citing examples from internal testing like an engineer who asked M to redecorate their desk with a French style prior to going on a trip to France, only to return to the completed request.

M populates inside of Messenger so users will need to have this app installed to take advantage of it, and when looking to complete a task or request, sending a message to M is basically like sending a message to any other contact you have in Messenger. There is a specific button you’ll tap to initiate the process, and once that’s done you can ask M pretty much anything, including locating you a good restaurant in a specific place or to lock you down a hotel should you need one. Using M can also feel just like a normal, fluid conversation with a real human being who simply has all the answers or can do anything for you, (kind of like a real assistant) as M can provide follow-up questions when needed. At the moment M currently only grabs information based on user responses and prior conversations, but there is a possibility that eventually Facebook could implement user data to process requests. Since M also works based on actual human response, you could end up with getting above and beyond a specific request should the “M trainers” make a judgement call that it would benefit you. As it stands M is also only available to a small and very limited number of users in the San Francisco Bay area with no mention of when expansion of the service will begin to roll out to more users, and on what platform.