Artificial Intelligence

Facebook lines up to compete with Apple, Google, and Samsung with new AI digital assistant

A limited version of Facebook Messenger's M, an AI assistant, rolled out on Thursday across the US and will eventually be expanded to other countries.

facebook-m-2.jpg
Image: Facebook

On Thursday, Facebook launched a new digital assistant named "M" that works within Messenger for users in the US. It includes artificial intelligence (AI) to make suggestions to users.

M launched in 2015, and was tested on a small percentage of users, and it has now been expanded to all iOS and Android users in the US and will eventually roll out to other countries. There are 1 billion Facebook Messenger users monthly.

There is already competition among AI-powered digital assistants, with Google's Allo messaging app, and the upcoming Galaxy S8 including a Samsung-developed digital assistant named Bixby. There's also Apple's Siri and Google Assistant, and there is Amazon Alexa on some smartphones.

SEE: Facebook rolls out limited version of M, Messenger's AI assistant, across US (ZDNet)

There is a chance that Facebook could become the chosen AI digital assistant among users in the enterprise, but given that many use Facebook as a personal social media site, it may not make an impact among business users.

Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and general manager of IoT and applications at Cisco, said he believes that Facebook M won't make a huge impact on business users as it makes Messenger more like Snapchat. "Business messaging is in many ways way ahead of consumer on the bot front already. I use more business bots than FB messenger bots," he said.

"Business users want to use the latest technology just like consumers, and bots provide a way to automate and streamline manual activities," Trollope said.

How M will work

M recognizes intent in a conversation on Messenger, and it will initially offer limited functionality with the following actions:

  • Sending stickers: M shares sticker suggestions for your daily life interactions like "Thank you" or "Bye-bye."
  • Paying or requesting money: M recognizes when people are discussing payments and gives them the option of sending or requesting money.
  • Sharing your location: M can suggest an option to share your location during a conversation.
  • Making plans: If people are talking about getting together, M helps coordinate a plan.
  • Starting a poll (in group conversations only): M lets you set a poll topic and vote in group conversations.
  • Getting a Ride: M suggests "Get A Ride" and shares an option of Lyft or Uber.

M relies on AI machine learning techniques and suggests relevant actions from things brought up in conversation on Messenger. To use it, people chat on Facebook Messenger as they normally would, and M may suggest relevant topics.

"As suggestions from M start to roll out to users in the US, Messenger users across the globe will also start to see a redesigned way to compose messages. This update offers an easier way to access and discover Messenger features like our rich visual messaging tools and the ability to quickly share content like video and images directly from the text composer with a long press. We're also adding a 'More' tab to more easily access Messenger features such as Games, Payments, Share Location and Rides," according to a Facebook press release.

Three takeaways for TechRepublic readers:

  1. On Thursday, a new digital assistant named "M" that works within Facebook Messenger was launched for users in the US.
  2. M first appeared in 2015, but was only tested on a small percentage of Facebook users.
  3. Other AI-powered digital assistants include Google's Allo messaging app, the upcoming Galaxy S8 with a Samsung-developed digital assistant named Bixby, Apple's Siri, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa on some smartphones.

See also

About Teena Maddox

Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. She ties together the style and substance of tech. Teena has spent 20-plus years writing business and features for publications including Peo...

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