Facebook Messenger has a new AI assistant

Facebook has announced the release of an AI assistant known simply as ‘M’ for its Messenger app that will pop into your chats and suggest actions it can perform for you depending on what you’re talking about.

M isn’t intended to be an in-your-face and always present assistant. Instead the system will quietly analyze your conversations in real-time and call M to action when you use key-words that trigger its capabilities. 

At the moment, the actions M is able to take include sending stickers, sending payment requests, initiating apps such as Uber and Lyft, starting polls, sharing your location and formalizing plans. 

Helpful suggestions

M’s actions are optional and its suggestions will pop up in the chat window like any other message, allowing you to either take it up on its suggested actions or disregard them completely.

If, for example, you were to be chatting to a friend and one of you mentioned meeting at a certain place and time, M would pop up and offer the ‘make a plan’ suggestion. 

Clicking on this would allow you to set a time and a place for meeting your friend and then M would remind you of your plans an hour before they take place. 

Or, if someone were to ask you where you are, M would give you the option to share your location. Would you rather they didn't know? Just swipe the suggestion to the side and forget it was ever made.

Facebook has been working on this M feature for a while with testing starting in December of last year. Things have obviously progressed well as Facebook has started rolling it out to iOS and Android users across the US with a global expansion planned eventually.

M suggestions is just a part of Facebook’s grand plans for bot integration in Messenger. Rather than a standalone bot that you ask to perform specific tasks, however, it’s an example of how AI can be weaved almost seamlessly into conversation in order to provide contextual help without the user having to ask or seek it out. 

If M is perhaps too similar to the annoying paperclip from Microsoft Word for you, however, you will be able to mute it completely or mute certain suggestions it can make in the app’s software settings panel. 

Emma Boyle

Emma Boyle is TechRadar’s ex-Gaming Editor, and is now a content developer and freelance journalist. She has written for magazines and websites including T3, Stuff and The Independent. Emma currently works as a Content Developer in Edinburgh.