Facebook is making a jump into personalized artificial intelligence, with a new personal assistant being turned on in Facebook Messenger on Wednesday.
The service is called "M," and it allows users to ask it for information that might be useful to them, tapping into the vast database created by Facebook over the past few years. It can help with a range of things, including finding nearby restaurants, finding a gift for a friend and so on.
"M is a personal digital assistant inside of Messenger that completes tasks and finds information on your behalf. It's powered by artificial intelligence that's trained and supervised by people," said Facebook's head of messaging, David Marcus, in a statement.
Of course, many will wonder what makes M different from other personal assistants on the market, such as Siri or Google Now, which will already be installed on a user's phone. The main difference, according to Marcus, is that M can actually complete tasks on the behalf of the user. For example, if a user is purchasing a gift for someone, instead of simply suggesting items to buy, M can go and order the gift for you.
A computer that can understand what a user wants has become commonplace over the past few years. Google, Apple, IBM and Microsoft have all begun created artificially intelligent personal assistants to help users with day-to-day tasks.
Facebook, however, says that it has made some big developments in personal assistants. Earlier this year, the company explained at its developer conference that it had taught a computer to understand the plot of Lord of the Rings. The computer was then able to answer questions about the plot.
In order to make it work, users simply need to tap a small button at the bottom of the messenger app, after which a request can be made in the same way that a user types a message to a friend.
It's important to note that M will not use social data collected by Facebook over the years. Instead, it will only use information provided by the user in that conversation and previous ones, learning as it goes. The service is free and will eventually be made available to all Facebook users.
Of course, artificial intelligence is still in its infancy and is nowhere near like what can be seen in the movies. We'll have to wait a little longer until we have a real life J.A.R.V.I.S.