Facebook Inc. is testing a personal digital assistant called “M” within its Messenger service that can answer questions with live human help and perform tasks such as buying gifts online and booking restaurants, Reuters reported.
M is “powered by artificial intelligence that’s trained and supervised by people”, David Marcus, vice president of Messaging products, wrote on his Facebook page on Wednesday.
Rival services like Apple Inc.’s Siri, Google Inc.’s Google Now and Microsoft Corp.’s Cortana rely entirely on technology to answer questions.
M is a hybrid backed by a team of Facebook employees with customer service backgrounds, called M trainers, who can also make travel arrangements and appointments, Marcus wrote.
Facebook has introduced several functions inside Messenger, which boasts more than 700 million users, to transform it into a standalone platform.
Earlier this year, it rolled out games exclusively on Messenger and launched products for businesses to directly connect with consumers.
According to technology website Wired, Facebook starts at a disadvantage on mobile because it does not have its own operating system, which means that users must download an app and then open it.
Marcus, however, believes M will make Messenger the first stop of mobile users because it is such a powerful personal assistant.
“We start capturing all of your intent for the things you want to do,” Marcus said. “Intent often leads to buying something, or to a transaction, and that’s an opportunity for us to [make money] over time.”
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