Facebook starts testing M, the virtual assistant that lives inside Messenger

Facebook has started testing M, a new virtual assistant that lives inside its Messenger app. Rolling out first in the San Francisco Bay Area, M's artificial intelligence in trained and supervised by people. One of the big selling points of M is its ability to do things for you in the course of completing a task.

As Facebook's David Marcus explains:

Unlike other AI-based services in the market, M can actually complete tasks on your behalf. It can purchase items, get gifts delivered to your loved ones, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments and way more.

A new button will eventually appear in Messenger that will allow you to activate M. You can ask it where to get good pizza in Chicago, or, using Messenger's built-in payments feature, order a gift for a family member. Anything that the artificial intelligence can't handle will be picked up by one of the M trainers. From Wired:

If you ask M to plan a birthday dinner for your friend, the software might book the Uber and the restaurant, but a person might surprise your friend at the end of the night by sending over birthday cupcakes from her favorite bakery.

This is early days yet for M, and the rollout to all 700 million Facebook Messenger users is expected to take quite some time, with no firm date, or even time frame having been announced just yet.

Source: David Marcus, Wired

Joseph Keller