Facebook has unveiled its own personal assistant, a rival to Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana with one major difference.
“M”, as the assistant is called, is not only powered by artificial intelligence software that responds to your queries. It is also controlled by actual people.
Facebook has hired a workforce of “M trainers”, which are essentially customer service representatives who respond to questions and requests that are entered into M.
This means that while M will be able to use artificial intelligence software to respond to simple queries such as “What is seven multiplied by 12?”, it will be able to use humans to respond to more complicated requests.
Apple, Google and Microsoft are all competing to develop smartphone-based personal assistants. With voice commands possibly easier than searching on mobile devices, advocates of digital assistants believe they could one day be the new way that consumers look up information.
David Marcus, Facebook’s messaging head, announced M on his Facebook page.
“It’s powered by artificial intelligence that’s trained and supervised by people,” Marcus said. “Unlike other AI-based services in the market, M can actually complete tasks on your behalf. It can purchase items, get gifts delivered to your loved ones, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments and way more.”
M is located on Facebook’s Messenger app rather than on its main app or website. It was reported last month that the social network was developing a Siri rival codenamed Moneypenny.
The software is currently being tested in San Francisco but will be slowly rolled out to more users. Marcus told Wired that the company may have to hire thousands of M trainers to keep up with demand. The company hopes that the software will be able to “learn” the patterns of the human assistants, meaning it is capable of responding to more complicated queries.