Facebook is rolling out a new artificial intelligence program that, over time, wants to become your friend, or at least an extremely good secretary. The social network’s Messenger app now includes M, a virtual assistant that will learn from data in your private conversations with friends and then suggest applications to help streamline your day, sometimes before you even know you need them. A new video posted to Facebook on Thursday shows how the A.I. works.
With M’s new features now live in the U.S., Messenger users will see suggestions pop up at (hopefully) opportune moments. This might notice that you’ve mentioned grabbing a beer tonight, and prompt you to create an in-chat reminder. If you do, it will by default apply to everyone in the conversation who the A.I. deems to have been in on the plan. As much information as it can draw from the chat, it will include in the program — it’s the difference between, “Want to meet up?” and, “Want to meet up with Sarah at The Beer Bar at 7?”
If things get more complicated, M can mediate the creation of in-chat polls to settle disputes, send a location to help with meeting up, and even begin payment.
The service is being branded under the single letter “M,” but you won’t see the logo in your interactions with it. The idea behind this new initiative is to provide seamless tools that integrate right into their everyday conversations. The A.I. initiative may be called M, but the goal is clearly to integrate these features as deeply into Messenger’s core identity as possible.
Facebook Messenger recently made a big to-do about allowing encryption of its messaging from end to end. That sort of feature hides your conversations from Facebook entirely, meaning that this A.I. will never get the chance to decide if you need a suggestion or two. Though the company apparently felt encryption was necessary to appease its users, it’s also definitely not something the company wants to see embraced on a large scale.
Features like this one, which require A.I. trolling of personal communication, offer an incentive for even very privacy-conscious users to let Facebook see virtually every detail of their lives. Facebook has had the ability to see this information for a long time, now, and with M it is finally starting to provide some value to customers in return.