Facebook’s M blends AI assists with human help

When it comes to questions asked online, which ones are best handled by a machine, and which ones require human intervention? Facebook thinks it can perform the triage with M, its new personal digital assistant.

M is unique in the hotly competitive field of AI. It’s meant to provide information, like the best nearby hiking spots, or the best burger joint. But it’s also designed to complete tasks, like help someone order flowers for a parent’s birthday, recommend which baby shoes to buy, or book travel arrangements.

“It’s powered by artificial intelligence that’s trained and supervised by people,” said David Marcus, heading of messaging at Facebook, in announcing the initial test launch of the service on Wednesday.

M exists as a feature inside Facebook’s Messenger app, currently only available to some Messenger users in the San Francisco Bay Area.