December 13, 2018

Facebook to shut down its virtual assistant 'M'

11 January 2018, 08:23 | Ross Houston

Facebook to shut down its virtual assistant 'M'

Facebook to shut down its virtual assistant 'M'

The human staff behind the service will be offered new jobs inside Facebook when M shuts down on January 19.

Facebook has made a decision to call it quits on its M AI virtual assistant, which used human "trainers" to teach the technology the correct things to say, two and a half years after introducing the service.

"Today we shared with the people who have access to our M closed beta project, first announced in August 2015, that January 19th is the last day the service will be available", it wrote in a statement.

Facebook is shutting down its Messenger virtual assistant, M, which helps users make dinner reservations or get gift suggestions. Yet, M Suggestions, a feature of the smart chatbot, will live on as a part of Messenger, where it's been occasionally popping up for some users on the regular, intelligently suggesting relevant replies to messages and other actions as well. So, if a user was to mention recipes, then a Food Network bot may be recommended.

Last April, Facebook released a more underwhelming version of the service to the general public. It could cue important meetings or create events and it could even call rides from auto services like Uber.

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The Mark Zuckerberg-led firm had built M for its Messenger chat platform in an attempt to rival Apple's Siri and Google Assistant.

Facebook is also shutting down its M bot just as its competitors are ramping up their own digital helpers. In fact, what most users can now access through their Messenger app is a far simpler version of the assistant called M suggestions. However, as of now, the company is ending the human side of its digital assistant.

In its story on M's demise, BuzzFeed suggested that AI was once something with unlimited potential and support at Facebook, but now has been put on the backburner as the company is forced to deal with fallout from its role in the 2016 elections.

"We launched this project to learn what people needed and expected of an assistant, and we learned a lot", said a spokesperson to The Verge. They went on to say they are pleased with what they have learned from using the service.

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