Facebook’s M Assistant Combines Human and Artificial Intelligence

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Siri and Cortana may have met their match with M. Nested inside Facebook’s Messenger, the new AI-based service began testing yesterday as announced on a Facebook post from David Marcus, Messenger head and former PayPal CEO.

“Unlike other AI-based services in the market, M can actually complete tasks on your behalf,” Marcus wrote. “It can purchase items, get gifts delivered to your loved ones, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments and way more…It’s powered by artificial intelligence that’s trained and supervised by people.”

In beta in San Francisco and available to a few hundred Facebook users, M is also competing with Magic and Operator, services that help users book restaurant reservations, plane tickets and make purchases.

Marcus is bullish on the distinguishing, hybrid nature of M. “It can perform tasks that none of the others can,” he writes, due to a cadre of Facebook humans—M trainers—ensuring all requests are answered.

M has no gender, and the actual source of a response may be AI or human. For now, M trainers are contractors but Marcus said Facebook will eventually employ them by the thousands.

The dual drivers for Messenger—mobile discovery followed by transaction—form the underlying business model for M. “We start capturing all of your intent for the things you want to do,” said Marcus, in Wired. “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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Tapping a button at the bottom of the Messenger app sends a note to M, which is decoded from natural language, followed by additional questions and an update when the task is finished.

For now, Marcus continued, M is not using Facebook users’ social data to perform tasks but he added that might change “at some point, with proper user consent.”

As Tech Crunch reports, “While Google and Apple were dicking around with the pure science of artificial intelligence, Facebook used human helpers to brute force a full-featured assistant.”

“But the beauty of Facebook’s strategy is that it doesn’t have to monetize M, or Messenger, directly,” continues Tech Crunch. “While competitors scramble for ways to earn cash, Messenger lets its parent app handle the finances. All Facebook has to do with M is make Messenger more useful, and thereby used more. The chat app locks people into Facebook’s social network, and that’s where it keeps the real money-maker: the ad-filled News Feed.”

And so, the battle is on—and with 700 million Messenger users, Facebook may have pulled ahead of the competition just by putting a human face on its AI assistant.

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Source: Facebook’s M Assistant Combines Human and Artificial Intelligence

Via: Google Alerts for AI