Facebook's M is a human-supported virtual assistant inside Messenger

Unlike Siri, Cortana, and Google Now, there might be an actual person helping you out

Facebook's M

Facebook's Messenger became its own app, splitting off from the social network's main interface, and then it hit the web and became a proper platform for developers to work within. And now it has its own virtual assistant, only it's not as virtual as some of the rest.

M is its name - quite in line with the internal name of "Moneypenny" suggested by a report last month - and it's just entered testing starting with a few hundred users located in the San Francisco Bay Area, says Wired. And M is a lot more capable than something like Siri, Cortana, or Google Now, as it can actually complete significant tasks for you rather than simply point you in the right direction.

For example, M can suggest birthday gifts and then purchase them once you affirm interest. It can point you toward vacation destinations - but also deal with the hassle of actually booking the trip on your behalf. How is it able to cross that line between smartly aggregating data and actually executing tasks for you? Well, it's all about the people behind it.

Or rather, M's colleagues, if you will. Facebook's David Marcus says in a post on the initiative that M is "powered by artificial intelligence that's trained and supervised by people." But Wired explains it further, saying that humans are actively involved in the process, and can take over tasks in real time to see them to fruition. You may not even know if a computer or actual person was involved, since M interacts purely in written text.

It sounds handy, certainly, although it's not clear how long it'll be before M expands to a larger audience; Marcus says it's "early in the journey to build M into an at-scale service." He adds, "But it's an exciting step towards enabling people on Messenger to get things done across a variety of things, so they can get more time to focus on what's important in their lives."

[Sources: Facebook, Wired]