Facebook’s New Virtual Assistant Helps Users With Various Tasks Based on Messenger Conversations

'M' is more like Allo than Siri

M, Facebook's virtual assistant, is available to users in the U.S. starting today. - Credit by Facebook
Headshot of Marty Swant

Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, Samsung’s Bixby, Microsoft’s Cortana—it seems like every platform has its own AI assistant, and now Facebook is finally rolling out its own. And while the social network has been teasing its virtual assistant for a while now, it’s finally bringing M to the masses via Facebook Messenger.

M is certainly no Jarvis, Mark Zuckerberg’s own home AI with Morgan Freeman’s voice. But it does use machine learning to help with tasks like paying or requesting money, sharing locations, hailing rides or making plans with friends by suggesting actions based on what users type.

All in all, it might be better to think of M as a glorified chatbot, at least for now.

In a blog post today introducing M, Facebook product managers Laurent Landowski and Kemal El Moujahid said a small number of users have been testing M for a few months, and it’s now ready for a broader rollout for users in the U.S.

“When we announced M over a year ago, it was a small AI experiment powered by humans that could fulfill almost any request,” they wrote. “We learned a lot, and these interactions have enabled us to build a completely automated version of M that suggests helpful actions in your chat, exposing features people may not have known were available right in Messenger.”

Users can access M by chatting with friends as they normally would. Only now, they might see the M logo pop up in a conversation if someone mentions something related a task M can do. Users can always dismiss M if they’re not interested or mute it entirely in Messenger’s settings. But as it’s used more, M will get better at knowing how and when it can be helpful.

Facebook’s not the first tech company to integrate a virtual assistant into a messaging app. Last year, Google introduced Google Assistant as a part of its Allo app, which launched with a slew of brands including OpenTable, Uber and GrubHub.

M is available for both iOS and Android users and will be available in countries outside of the U.S. at some point.

@martyswant martin.swant@adweek.com Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.