Facebook tests new in-app chat assistant
If you thought they couldn’t do much more you would be wrong as social network giant Facebook are now testing a ‘digital assistant’ to run in-app with chat application Messenger.
If you’re thinking, “been done,” you would also be wrong as instead of helping you or telling you how to do things, ‘M’ does them for you. The single interface is currently in the beta phase and only available to around 10,000 users in San Francisco, but running almost like a concierge service, ‘M’ would, in theory, be able to replace all voice-recognition web searches and applications.
With the ability to ask a device to simply do something for us, the service is indicative of changes to come in terms of humans’ interaction with technology.
The software would lead the competition against contenders such as Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and the voice recognition systems Google integrates into apps. Facebook would gain the attention it’s been fighting to steal from Google and would have access to a mass of direct-response advertising which Google is currently leading in.
Direct-response advertisements are those that pop up when searching for things such as mobile phones, flight tickets and other purchases.
With Facebook being a familiar interface to 2.5 billion people, and Messenger to 700 million, the system would not already have an advantage over other voice-driven systems, but would have access to 700 million peoples’ conversations; accumulating the data required to make the chat-based assistant function.
However, as the system is being tested on a small scale the interactions are mostly powered by actual customer service agents hired to help ‘M’ handle the user requests, compared to the robotics of Google and Siri. This won’t work on the scale of 700 million users if the digital assistant is rolled out, but the plan is to use the interaction with users and input from the human service reps to eventually let it work autonomously.
Reporter, Alex Kantrowitz for Buzzfeed was among the testers in San Francisco. He outlines his first impressions here, showing the process of booking a flight with ‘M’ and asking for good local vegetarian restaurants. ‘M’ outlines cheapest flights, recommends changing the departure time to save additional money and shows Yelp reviews alongside restaurant recommendations. The flight is also payable in-app.
Using Prove I Called when contacting Facebook
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