Facebook Launching Digital Personal Assistant That Uses Real People To Complete Tasks For You

Because Facebook’s Messenger doesn’t already have enough going on – sending mobile payments, video chats, go-between for businesses and customers – the company today launched a very limited test of its new personal digital assistant that lives inside the app, confirming rumors it was working on a Siri- and Cortana-like feature.

Wired reports that the new feature – called M – will be tested by a few hundred Messenger users in the San Francisco Bay area.

The chosen testers will be notified that they now have the ability to make reservations, ask for suggestions on a new book or look up products for purchase using M when they open their messenger app.

David Marcus, vice president of messaging products at Facebook, tells Wired, that M can do many of the same things that personal, virtual assistants like Siri and Google can do.

That’s because M, as Consumerist reported back in July, is a hybrid between systems like Cortana and Siri that only use technology and those utilized by TaskRabbit that employ people to respond to text-based requests.

Last month, the service – which was dubbed Moneypenny – was described as a concierge service, with “real people” available who can help users accomplish tasks online, like researching/buying products and services, among other as-yet-to-be-determined things.

Marcus confirmed to Wired that Facebook’s M will be supported by a team of people – known as M Trainers – who manage the artificial intelligence and assist in completing tasks. Wired notes that M Trainers have customer service backgrounds, and that you’ll never know whether or not the assistant you’re working with is real or artificial.

The system works when users ask M something, for example, a new book to read. M then asks several follow-up questions to gauge your interests.

While the questions are likely a nice touch, you might wonder why the system doesn’t simply look at your favorites on your Facebook profile – supposing you have them listed.

For now, Marcus says the feature won’t pull your Facebook history to complete tasks. However, he cautions that this could change in the future, depending on the usage of M.

Facebook Launches M, Its Bold Answer To Siri And Cortana [Wired]

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