×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Facebook Is Adding Human Assistance to Its Messenger

Facebook’s Messenger app is about to get a lot more useful: Facebook started to roll out a new mobile assistant dubbed “M” to select Messenger users in the Bay Area Wednesday, according to a Wired report.

M can be seen as Facebook’s attempt to take on Siri and Google Now, with a twist: The mobile assistant is in part powered by humans, which help users to get tasks done that are too complicated for machines. For example, M will be able to find nearby restaurants and reserve tables or order take-out, suggest last-minute birthday gifts and help organize social outings.

All this will be done via messaging; users just type their requests as if they were talking to a regular person. On the other end of the line, a computer helps to make sense of these requests and field basic questions. More advanced interactions are handed over to what Facebook calls “trainers” — essentially customer support representatives that can make phone calls for Facebook users, or do other things a computer would be unable to do.

The Information was first to report about Facebook’s plans to tap humans for mobile assistance last month.

SEE MORE: Facebook’s Messenger Could One Day Be Bigger Than Facebook

This combination of artificial and human intelligence is very different from what Google and Apple are doing with their mobile assistants, which are entirely powered by software. Using humans to power mobile assistance could also become a costly undertaking. Wired reports that Facebook eventually plans to hire thousands of trainers as it makes M more widely available.

But Facebook obviously views this as a worthwhile investment as it aims to turn Messenger from a simple communications tool to a must-have app on mobile. Messenger already has more than 700 million monthly active users, according to Facebook, and the company is continuing to add functionality to the app while removing friction.

In July, Facebook introduced the option to sign up for Messenger without a Facebook account in certain countries. And in March, it opened up the app to third-party publishers to add professionally produced and user-generated content directly to conversations.

More Digital

  • Amazon

    Amazon Music’s Free Tier Is More Advertising Play Than Spotify Killer, Analysts Say

    When news began to spread last week that Amazon Music’s long-anticipated free streaming tier was imminent, headlines emerged about its threat to Spotify and Apple Music, with some stories saying that Spotify’s stock price dropped in response to the news. But not only was today’s launch of the free tier basically a soft one — [...]

  • Gay Chorus Deep South

    Why Airbnb Produced Documentary 'Gay Chorus Deep South,' Its First-Ever Film (EXCLUSIVE)

    The latest player to hit the film-festival circuit may be a bit unexpected: Airbnb, the travel-accommodations booking marketplace, developed, financed and produced documentary film “Gay Chorus Deep South,” set to premiere at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival on April 29. It’s the company’s very first feature film. Directed by David Charles Rodrigues, “Gay Chorus Deep [...]

  • Amazon

    Amazon Music Launches Free Streaming Tier, Through Alexa Only (for Now)

    Amazon Music today basically soft-launched its free streaming tier, in which U.S. customers of its Alexa voice assistant will have access to top Amazon Music playlists and thousands of stations, at no cost. The limited access that the new free service provides — it’s only available through Alexa, and when the listener requests a song, [...]

  • Ben Silbermann, Evan Sharp. Pinterest co-founder

    Pinterest Shares Up Close to 29% on IPO Day

    Shares of the social pinning service Pinterest closed at $24.45 — 28.6% above their IPO price — on the company’s first day at the New York Stock Exchange Thursday as investors were looking to get in on the latest tech listing. Pinterest’s shares opened at $23.75, 25% above the IPO pricing of $19 per share, [...]

  • Netflix Logo

    Netflix to Open Production Hub in New York City Encompassing 100,000 Square Feet

    Netflix plans to open a new production and office facility in Manhattan — which will provide up to $100 million in investments to New York City and result in hundreds of new jobs, according to New York State Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Netflix’s new corporate offices in the Big Apple will take up 100,000 square [...]

  • MoviePass card

    MoviePass Has Lost Over 90% of Its Subscribers in Less Than a Year (Report)

    MoviePass users apparently hit the exits en masse after it scaled back the number of movies users could see each month: The flailing cinema-subscription provider has seen its subscriber rolls plunge from a peak of more than 3 million to just 225,000 in under a year, according to a new report. The numbers were reported [...]

  • The Nashville, Tenn. downtown area and

    Nashville City Council Sides With Songwriters Against Streamers’ CRB Appeal

    Nashville city leaders have sided against the streaming services Amazon, Spotify, Google and SiriusXM/Pandora in the appeal of the Copyright Royalty Board’s decision that would give songwriters a pay raise. The Nashville Metro Council adopted the resolution as part of its consent agenda earlier this week, although the move is “purely symbolic” and the streamers [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content