Facebook announced its first virtual assistant on Thursday in the form of "M", which privately interjects in chat threads on Messenger to offer users suggestions related to the conversation.
The feature goes beyond the platform's chat bot technology, offering recommendations for relevant stickers, GIFs, payments, rides and meeting times now appear to each user above the message composer in chat threads. The service launched as a beta test in December but was rolled out to all iOS and Android users in the U.S. as part of an app update.
According to Facebook, M relies on AI machine learning techniques and is capable of learning the more it is used. Users can ignore or dismiss suggestions if they're not helpful, and the assistant can easily be muted it in settings. The full list of possible suggestions are as follows.
- Sending stickers: M shares fun 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 easily 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 coordinating a plan.
- Starting a poll (in group conversations only): Have a hard time making decisions in a group? M lets you set a poll topic and vote in group conversations.
Getting a Ride: Talking about going somewhere? M suggests “Get A Ride” and shares an option of Lyft or Uber.
Apple is known to have looked at a similar implementation of Siri in its iMessage platform. A patent published last November for a "virtual assistant in a communication session" depicts a scenario in which users can invoke Siri from within chat threads to get answers to relevant queries, complete scheduling tasks, and more.
A rumor last month claimed that Apple plans to introduce Siri iMessage integration in iOS 11, which is expected to be announced at this year's Worldwide Developers Conference held in June. The feature is said to be part of a major upgrade to Siri's capabilities that would fit out the virtual assistant with powerful contextual learning abilities and iCloud integration.