Some Bay Area Facebook users will soon discover M, a new virtual assistant for Facebook Messenger and the social media giant will prompt the users to test it with examples of what M is capable of. One can find the right birthday gift or book weekend getaways and even search for the best beer in the locality.
Messenger’s users will soon realize that M is fit enough to accomplish more than any of the standard digital helpers since it does not use artificial intelligence to complete its tasks but is powered by actual people.
The new engineering products now act as useful personal assistant just like Apple’s Siri, but many of them have a limited range of tasks that they can fulfil. Some startup companies like Magic and Operator employ several people to respond to queries. And these services work with small teams to complete different tasks. M is a hybrid virtual assistant powered by AI as well as some Facebook employees, named as M trainers, who will make sure that each of the requests are answered satisfactorily.
Facebook’s goal is to make Messenger the only stop for mobile discovery. There are many apps on the desktop or on the mobile including Google, Google Maps, Twitterand even Siri which can address queries. Facebook does not have its own operating system, and therefore users will have to download the new app and then start using it. The makers want to make the platform very powerful so that it can help users to do things they want to do.
If M can provide better service than its competitors, Facebook can with time spur revenue from transactions. Marcus, the brains behind M was part of PayPal after which he has managed to triple people on Facebook Messenger.
How It Works
- Users will have to tap a small button which is placed at the bottom of the Messenger app to contact M, just like one messages their friends on Facebook.
- M’s software will start the decoding process of the natural language, use the follow up questions to extract answers and then send updates after the task is completed.
- Users won’t know whether a computer or a person has assisted them in this context since M is supposed to have no gender.
- M does not pull social data from Facebook for task completion as of now. The service hence will make suggestions depending on the answers received to their specific questions.
- With proper user consent though, the makers might integrate social services as part of the assistant.
Facebook employees have been using M since weeks now as part of the internal tests and have used the feature to organize dinner parties or search for an unusual beverage in New Orleans.
The Human Factor
Facebook’s M trainers have diverse customer service backgrounds and hence they are the ones who handle the trickier judgment calls, and even perform tasks that the software cannot act up on. Ask M to plan birthday dinner and the software might search for Uber and a nearby restaurant, but a friend surprising you at 12 am in the night by sending over a cake would have an added dimension. M can be trained based on human behaviour.
The Future of M
The M service is expected to become sophisticated to detect human behaviour in the near future but as of now, M trainers are trying their best to humanize the personal assistant. The trainers are contractors for Facebook although the company might need thousands of them which would mean a huge economic investment.
Additionally, Facebook is expected to leverage the service for better business opportunities too with a number of inbound requests would mean that a partnership is in the offing for better and efficient service. Facebook is already helping diverse firms with Businesses on Messenger, a feature that allows a number of businesses to send receipts, and even notify customers about the status of their packages and even provide customer service.