California, US (BBN)-Facebook is testing the artificial intelligence-powered service, called simply “M,” inside its messaging app, Messenger, with some users getting access to the feature Thursday.
David Marcus, the head of messaging products at the Menlo Park, California company, says in a Facebook post that M can do things like buy items for you, get gifts delivered and book restaurant reservations or appointments, reports
“It can perform tasks that none of the others can,” Marcus says. That’s because, not only does M use artificial intelligence, it’s actually powered by people as well.
The goal of M is to not just be a personal assistant, but to be one a one-stop shop for mobile discovery.
Traditionally, Google has been the king at this, particularly on your desktop computer, where you could search for, say the local movie times.
M is hoping to replace that by being a one-stop shop where you can not only get the next movie session time up through asking it, but you’ll also be one tap away from then actually buying a ticket.
“We start capturing all of your intent for the things you want to do,” says Marcus.
“Intent often leads to buying something, or to a transaction, and that’s an opportunity for us to [make money] over time.”
Facebook is hoping that other companies build into M, to offer native support to buy things or give extra information.
Adding one tap PayPal support for purchases, for example, could completely change how we shop for things.
M works a little differently to most personal assistant software.
To use it, you tap a button in the Messenger app to send a note to M, just like you would to a friend.
From there, M’s artificial intelligence or a real person will decode the message, ask follow up questions in the message threads and send updates until the task is complete.
Apple’s Siri is the most well-known virtual assistant. Microsoft and Amazon also have options.
Marcus says M aims to do more than other digital assistants on the market by completing tasks on the user’s behalf.
With more than 700 million users, Messenger gives Facebook a huge platform to get users onto its service.
While there has been no set date for a public rollout, Facebook has said all Messengers users will have free access at some point.