Facebook has officially launched M, their new virtual assistant which lives inside the Messenger app and can do things like; make a restaurant reservation, find a birthday gift, suggest and then book weekend getaways. 

Digital personal assistants are making huge strides are are rising in popularity at the moment. It started with Apple introducing Siri, then Google launched their own version called Google Now which was the more intelligent version of Siri that actually knew personal things about you based off Google data. Windows joined the party with Cortana and now Apple is going back at the moment to carry out big improvements to Siri with the September 9th invitations specifically mentioning Siri in September.

Facebook say that M can carry out tasks that none of these other digital assistants can. Why? Because M is powered by real people. That’s right, a combination of both artificial intelligence and real peal are running Facebook’s new assistant.

via Facebook

The competition all rely on technology and while that can do a lot, they all lack the personal touch of an actual human on the other end. Facebook wants to be the place to go to discover things and to find out the answers to questions we have online. The problem they have is that Google has that pretty much locked down on the desktop so in order for Facebook to break through they are going to have to develop something really powerful.

Facebook is at a disadvantage from the start. Siri, Google Now and Cortana all live embedded in their respective systems. Facebook does not have its own operating system so they are relying on people downloading an app and then going through the motions of opening the app to access M. Its doesn’t sound like a big deal however it is cumbersome when Siri is literally a button press away.

In order to win over the masses, M will have to provide more efficient service with a personal touch.

M works by tapping a small button at the bottom of the Messenger app to send a voice message to M. The natural language is then decoded and the assistant will ask follow up questions in the message thread and send updates as the task is completed.

M does not pull in data from anywhere else at the moment so the service will make suggestions based only on the answers you give it. However it is bound to be a matter of time before M starts pulling in data from platforms such as Facebook to help it understand you as a person.

At the moment the new M assistant is only available to a few hundred users in the Bay Area of San Francisco and we can expect the rollout to be gradual too. There is no indication when M will arrive in Ireland at present, however we will happily allow the American users to iron out the bugs and kinks, when it does arrive here we can expect to see a clean polished virtual assistant.

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