Today Facebook confirmed that it’s developing a virtual assistant called “Moneypenny” built into Messenger. The software was launched today under the name “M” and will initially be available in a limited rollout to users in the San Francisco area of the USA, later being extended worldwide.
Facebook Moneypenny virtual assistant
Facebook claims that M is not just a computer speech interpreter trying to understand questions and commands. It’s also a group of humans that can help answer queries when “the machine” cannot.
Users will also be able to chat with M just like they would a normal contact in Messenger, and will receive follow up questions to their requests, as well as being able to enter additional information to receive updates. It won’t be revealed however whether a computer or a human being has handled your request, which might raise privacy concerns for some people.
Facebook does seem to have taken an element of privacy into account however. “M” will not be able to access your regular Facebook activity and so will only be able to use information that you’ve made available in the conversation, remembering previous information so you don’t need to provide the same details every time you ask for help.
Facebook also claims that thanks to the human element, it can do things that no other personal assistant can do, such as helping you to choose a gift for a family member of friend. The company says that during testing amongst employees, a favourite request was for someone at “M” to call the the user’s cable company to make a change to their service.
Initially only available in select parts of the US, Facebook hopes to roll it out to all Facebook users in time. It sounds like a pretty lofty goal, requiring a lot of manpower to handle that many users, however…