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Facebook M

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Facebook M is the social media company’s personal digital assistant for the Messenger mobile app. Facebook M competes with similar virtual assistants including Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana and Samsung’s Bixby. However, M is available only on Facebook’s Messenger app and is exclusively for iOS or Android-based devices and not available on PC.

M assists users by providing suggestions and helping them find things more easily. The digital assistant provides Messenger users with in-chat suggestions and services. Unlike some digital assistants, M is not voice interactive but pops up in users’ text chats.

M uses machine learning and user data to become more effective for an individual’s needs. One unique aspect of the software is the significant amount of ongoing human-supervised learning involved. In case the artificial intelligence (AI) software has difficulty, M is backed by a team of human trainers. These trainers include ten staff members from Wit.ai, a company that Facebook acquired. Trainers work with M to help the AI learn new tasks. Through machine learning, M may eventually learn new tasks independently.

M is named for MI6 secretary Moneypenny (also known simply as M), who assisted Agent 007 in the James Bond movie series. The name may have been chosen as a reference to its namesake’s professionalism. M is designed to be functional in contrast to more human-like assistants that talk and joke with users. The assistant avoids controversial questions, often stating it has no opinion and referring users to network news for information requests.

M has a number of functions, some automatic and others that can only be enabled by human trainers.

Automatic functions include the following:

  • Coordinate plans based on schedules.
  • Suggest Facebook Pay when transactions are discussed.
  • Suggest restaurants, movies, games, books and more.
  • Suggest stickers to add personality to a chat conversation.
  • Make online reservations.
  • Order a Lyft or Uber cab.

With trainer assistance, M can also:

  • Call customer service lines, e.g. to handle refunds.
  • Order food, even without online ordering and pay.
  • Handle new requests or requests the AI does not understand.

Because of the human backup team, Facebook M is very resource-intensive. As a result, M may not see full deployment outside the United States. However, automated suggestions similar to those provided by M may be applied abroad.

This was last updated in May 2017

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