Ever since Facebook spun off Messenger as a standalone app, the Menlo Park-based social media giant was hard at work developing the Messenger ecosystem to improve user acquisition and retention rates. About a year after Messenger became independent, Facebook debuted M, a human-powered digital assistant built into the company's IM app. Since then, Messenger users in limited territories can communicate with M just like Google Allo users interact with Google Assistant, i.e. by messaging it. While M still hasn't rolled out in most regions, it appears that Facebook hasn't dropped the idea of powering its IM app with a proprietary AI assistant. In fact, the company is adamant at improving it.
Cue M Suggestions, a new feature which Facebook reportedly started testing in select US territories earlier this week. The concept of M Suggestions is rather simple: Facebook's virtual assistant will scan your Messenger conversations and present you with a set of actions it believes you may want to take depending on the context of your chats. The most basic use of this feature is a set of stickers M will present once it detects some simple questions. Additionally, M Suggestions can also provide users with a shortcut to share their location with their friends once someone asks them where they are located. In practice, this feature works just like Google Hangouts location-sharing service does. You can check out some screenshots of M Suggestions in the gallery below.
Facebook's Product Manager David Marcus told BuzzFeed that the company is determined to roll out M worldwide in some unspecified future. Not surprisingly, the social media giant is looking to ennoble its AI assistant with more useful features before it launches globally. With that in mind, it's also possible that Facebook will only release specific M features like M Suggestions to more territories to reduce the overall development time of this product. After all, like all other contemporary digital assistants, M heavily relies on deep learning to improve, which means that it gets better at what it does the more people use it. As Marcus himself put it, this scenario would allow Facebook to bring a simplified version of M to more territories "fairly quickly." Unfortunately, Facebook's Product Manager wasn't ready to speculate about specific release windows, but we'll hopefully know more soon.