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Facebook M – a personal digital assistant

At the end of August, Facebook announced that they were testing a new service called M. This is a personal digital assistant inside the Messenger app, that completes tasks and finds information on the user’s behalf, being powered by artificial intelligence that’s trained and supervised by people.

M appears to be a significant project for Facebook and one that they are investing in with a long term strategy to become a leading service that can effectively complete tasks on your behalf – such as purchase items, get gifts delivered, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments and more. It is intended to compete and perform much better than Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana.

The difference with Facebook’s M is that it’s currently a hybrid service that uses artificial intelligence combined with a group of Facebook employees who will make sure that every request is answered. If M can provide a more efficient service than its competitors, Facebook hopes to boost the number of people using it on mobile, which will in turn lead to increased revenue from their transactions.

Once a user gets access to M through Messenger (which will be free), they can send a note to M, which will be interpreted by the software as a natural language query and then ask follow up questions in the message thread, if required, and send updates as the task is completed. Users won’t necessarily know whether a computer or a person has helped them.

The unique aspect of this service is that Facebook’s M ‘trainers’ have customer service backgrounds and so they will make judgments and perform tasks that the software can’t. As the service is used more and more, the intention is that the software will then learn from human behaviour and eventually become sophisticated enough to process requests correctly itself. This may be sometime off and could represent a significant financial investment by Facebook, but they are taking the long term view that this will become a powerful market-leading tool in the future.

If you’d like to know more about Facebook M, please get in touch.