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Facebook on Friday officially rolled out “M,” its Messenger-integrated, digital assistant — and it incorporates features that are strikingly similar to rumored upcoming Siri enhancements.
Among other functionality, Facebook’s proprietary AI assistant will interject into Messenger conversations with various suggestions — from sending an appropriate contextual sticker to sending and requesting money. If two Messenger users are planning a get-together, M will coordinate a time and place. If you start talking about going somewhere, M will suggest hailing a ride through Uber or Lyft.
M was first announced around a year ago, and has been undergoing a fairly lengthy test phase. Originally, M relied solely on human interaction — but through analyzing these interactions, Facebook has made M completely automated, the company wrote in a blog post. And since the assistant relies on machine learning technology, the more people use it, the smarter it’ll become. Additionally, the company said that M will make it easier to users to access and discover Messenger features.
Notably, a lot of M’s features bear quite the similarity to Apple’s data detectors built into the iOS 10 version of Messages. Similarly, many of the contextual functions that M incorporates into Facebook Messenger echo Siri enhancements described in an Apple patent first filed in May 2015 and rumored to appear in iOS 11. Still, it might be unfair to call M derivative, especially since today’s release means that Facebook, essentially, beat Apple to the punch of releasing a chat-based digital assistant.
As far as how similar the two platforms will ultimately end up being, we’ll just have to wait for iOS 11 — which is largely expected to be announced at this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June.
M will become available to all Messenger users in the U.S. today, both on iOS and Android. The digital assistant will eventually roll out to other regions in the near future, Facebook said.