Facebook's M assistant launches in US, will offer chat suggestions

AI-powered features can suggest users send money, share location, and more

More than a year after introducing a virtual assistant in its Messenger app, Facebook is launching M to the masses. While it was originally conceived as a bot that users would chat with, M now only offers a set of suggestions that are supposed to help with the conversation being carried out.

For example, when users are chatting about getting together for dinner, M will suggest that they create a shared plan that will remind them of the engagement as it approaches. The assistant will give them suggested stickers to react to conversational turns, along with prompts to transfer money, share location, start a poll, or get a ride from Uber or Lyft.

M uses machine learning to figure out when it should jump into a conversation by reading the chats between users. It’s designed to help users get access to advanced features that make Messenger different from its competition, which may help keep users on Facebook’s app rather than using others like WeChat, Line, and iMessage.

Having an artificial intelligence assistant that inserts itself into a conversation is nothing new for the land of chat applications like Facebook Messenger. Google has built its Assistant into Allo, the app that it created for consumer messaging.

If people aren’t keen on a Facebook assistant “helpfully” inserting itself into a conversation, it’s possible to turn the feature off. Any of M’s suggestions can also be dismissed.

The suggestions will roll out to all Messenger users on iOS and Android in the U.S. on Thursday, with other countries coming in the future. Facebook plans to add additional artificial intelligence features to Messenger, too.

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