Facebook brings M Automated Assistant in Messenger


The feature will analyze your conversation and suggest actions based upon the subject of your conversation.

The suggestions will roll out to all Messenger users on iOS and Android in the us on Thursday, with other countries coming in the future. Or if a friend reminds you that you owe him or her $20 for drinks from last week, Facebook will serve up a feature that lets you repay that friend with a tap. Since then a small number of users have been allowed to message M any request, which it tries to fulfill, first relying on AI to parse the question and retrieve answers it's already learned.

This is not a full version of M, which is still in beta and is primarily powered by humans.

The problem is "it can not scale to millions of people" says Facebook M product manager Laurent Landowski, who co-founded the natural language processing startup Wit.AI that Facebook acquired. Of course, you don't have to use M if you don't want to (it can be disabled entirely in Messenger's settings), but I recommend giving it a go before making any decisions. Rather, you simply start having a conversation with someone and M will begin suggesting actions you may wanna perform like sending a response or emoji. But as it's used more, M will get better at knowing how and when it can be helpful.

Facebook has been testing M with a "small percentage of users for the past few months", but starting 6 April, it is expanding the assistant to all Messenger users in the US. In Messenger, M will insert itself into your regular conversations to try and be useful. They're created to be noninvasive and will only appear "if the chances are really, really high that you'd pick [the suggestion] up". He demurred from comparing the app from other messaging services, saying he didn't know what specifically or how specifically others in the space are solving problems.

Above: Facebook Messenger suggested responses, powered by M.

For now, M Suggestions are focused on Messenger's internal features. M suggests "Get A Ride" and shares an option of Lyft or Uber. Facebook now has a big issue with bot discovery, having launched the automated messaging agents previous year without an easy way to find ones to use. If there are particular suggestions, like sharing your location, that you aren't interested in, you can mute those specific features.

If people aren't keen on a Facebook assistant "helpfully" inserting itself into a conversation, it's possible to turn the feature off.