Facebook’s AI assistant will now offer suggestions inside Messenger

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Facebook’s AI assistant, known simply as M, will now pop into your Messenger chat windows to suggest actions it can take on your behalf, the company announced today. The feature is rolling out to iOS and Android users in the US, with a broader expansion around the globe in the coming months. Facebook first began testing this feature in December, and it appears ready to be unleashed on the public.

The current system works by analyzing your conversation and looking for key words to trigger M’s suggestive capabilities. Those capabilities include sending stickers on your behalf, initiating payment requests through Messenger, calling a ride-hailing app like Uber and Lyft, starting a poll for group chat participants, and sharing your location with others. M will also look for key words that suggest you’re trying to make plans with a friend and jump in to help coordinate that. These suggestions will pop up in the chat window with the signature M logo to let you know when you can tap on them to take the action.

This isn’t the official launch of M, which remains in an invite-only beta period. M first began in the summer of 2015 as a standalone AI assistant that you could chat with independently. The software is linked with a team of real humans who oversee conversations, annotate data to improve M through machine learning techniques, and step in to take over when necessary if the task involved, say, placing a phone call to Amazon customer service. Because of how resource-intensive all of that is, Facebook has yet to expand the standalone M to the broader public. (As a member of the M beta test, I still have access to the assistant. I asked yesterday if I could invite…

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