When you receive a message in a language that is different from your default language in Messenger, Facebook's artificial intelligence assistant M will automatically offer a suggestion to translate the message. When you tap on the suggestion, you will be asked to enable auto-translation. Upon doing so, all future messages received that are not in your default language will be automatically translated.
"This is a meaningful milestone for M Suggestions and will enable people to connect with people they would not be able to communicate with otherwise in a way that is seamless and natural," a Messenger spokesperson said.
Auto-translation is enabled on a per-conversation basis, and all messages are shown in both the original language and translated version. You can opt-out of the feature at any time via the M Settings menu in Messenger, accessible by tapping your profile picture in the top-left corner of the app.
At launch, M can translate from English to Spanish, and vice versa. Facebook plans to add other languages and countries in the future.
Facebook first launched chat translation via M for users of its Marketplace service in the United States in early May. M Suggestions as a whole launched in April 2017, and are now available in 11 countries and five languages.
At its F8 developer conference last month, Facebook previewed an upcoming redesign of Messenger, including a simplified user interface, a dark mode, and customizable chat bubbles. At the time, the company said the facelift will be available "very, very soon," but as of now, the update has yet to be rolled out.
Apple is known to have looked at a similar implementation of Siri in iMessage as M in Messenger. A patent published in 2016 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.
Apple hasn't moved forward with the idea, but it did introduce Siri Shortcuts in iOS 12, enabling users to connect certain third-party apps to Siri to greatly streamline voice controls with app-specific actions.