Facebook kills its "M" virtual assistant

Gwen Vasquez
January 11, 2018

The project will officially shut down on January 19, Facebook said.

After nearly two-and-a-half years of introducing its own virtual assistant called M, Facebook is closing its shutter on the project, which until now was under the "Beta" tag.

Unfortunately, the human-supervised version of M has never expanded beyond a small pool of users living in California, which consisted of about 2,000 people, according to The Verge. Facebook has now confirmed that it's going to shut down the M virtual assistant on January 19th.

The service will continue to live on in part through M suggestions, which offers an entirely automated service providing suggestions to users about payments, making plans, and sending stickers through Messenger. So, if a user was to mention recipes, then a Food Network bot may be recommended. A hint of it was given by those working on Facebook M a year ago in a report by The Technology Review. It could cue important meetings or create events and it could even call rides from vehicle services like Uber.

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While Facebook M failed to take off, Amazon and Google were successful in bringing virtual assistant to masses through Alexa-powered Echo devices and Google Assistant-powered phones and Home-series of smart speakers, respectively.

Facebook is putting an end to M, an ambitious digital assistant product unveiled two years ago that was supposed to be the company's answer to Apple's Siri and Google's Assistant.

Facebook is also shutting down its M bot just as its competitors are ramping up their own digital helpers. Companies can still launch chatbots for customer service, and M's key-word driven suggestion feature will stay in place.

"We launched this project to learn what people needed and expected of an assistant, and we learned a lot", Facebook said in a statement, adding that it's going to use these insights to develop other artificial intelligence projects. They went on to say they are pleased with what they have learned from using the service.

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