If you’ve been using Facebook Messenger for a while now, you’ve probably noticed a little “M” logo found next to a little textbox in the app. It’s actually Facebook’s very own artificial intelligence assistant, designed to give its users suggestions in the middle of your conversations – something people who have experienced the Google Assistant “Allo” will find familiar. Since its release, the AI assistant has been available in English and Spanish.
M is capable of providing suggestions to its users on a number of useful matters, such as making payments or being able to share your location. It usually pops out of your chats when it thinks that it can be of assistance to you in any way. For instance, if you talk about going somewhere, the assistant could offer to book your Uber or Lyft (based on your preference) without having to leave the Messenger app.
Aside from the example given above, Facebook’s M can also do so much to help those who are traveling or making plans for their next trip.
It’s important to keep in mind that the app is still starting out, though. Even though the app is intended to be a counterpart to Siri and other digital assistants, it’s important to note that Facebook’s M is still in the works. It’s going to be evolving over the years. In fact, Facebook has made it clear that the app is still in its experimental stages, and it has announced that it will shutter M starting January 19, 2018.
But even after that, much of M’s functions will remain the messenger app. You’ve probably noticed the “+” icon that’s at the bottom of the screen when you’re chatting with someone. You’ll be able to do a couple of things, such as book a ride, share your location, make plans, and even play games. What “M” did was to make things easier for you by skipping the step of doing it all yourself. Instead, the assistant would offer to do these for you when the opportunity arose. (Note: of course, the function came with an option to deactivate this, in case users thought the suggestions came too frequently or didn’t want to be bothered by an AI assistant)
Facebook’s M and traveling
Of course, M is meant for more than just traveling, but its practical application as an artificial intelligence assistant is felt quite a lot by those who have plans of going somewhere, be it within the city or out of the country. M’s proactive suggestions help out with a lot of things that any traveler – whether beginner or pro – could greatly appreciate at any point of they trip, such as making plans, watching guides and videos, or to simply conversing with fellow travelers.
Listening to conversations. It might seem a bit creepy to some, but M was designed to listen in on your conversations with people to listen for opportunities to help you out. So, if you’re planning on going somewhere like the mall to watch a movie, M will promptly offer to book you an Uber or Lyft (depending on your preference) and then give you information about the film you want to watch (or could watch if you haven’t decided yet), including the schedule and ticket prices. You’ll even get help making payments.
But if you’re talking about traveling or are asking a friend about something, M can also help out by suggesting internal Facebook content, links, and videos that could answer your question or that of your friend. This, in some cases, can be quite helpful and, at the very least, save you the trouble of having to Google something.
M also has the ability to suggest voice or video calls if either party has shown interest in calling. From there, all you’d have to do is to tap a button to get started.
Stickers. It might seem like the sticker function isn’t something that travelers could find useful, but it does help with certain interactions. For example, if your travel buddy happens to be celebrating his or her birthday, M can suggest that you send a GIF or sticker for the occasion. The same thing goes for when you want to say “goodbye” or “thank you,” which could mean a lot more to people you just met or are traveling with, and reacting to these suggestions is as easy as swiping right or left.
Location sharing. Need to meet up with someone in an unfamiliar place? You might need to share your location with your contact so that neither of you wastes too much time trying to find each other. This is particularly useful when you get separated in crowded places or decide to go to different spots and agree to meet back somewhere. M can offer to share your location so that you won’t have to press the “+” button. Keep in mind that you can share location on real-time for an hour.
Setting reminders. Short-term trips or last-minute hangouts can be easy to forget, but thankfully M can help you set those reminders the very moment you discuss them in a chat. This usually happens when you mention specific dates or days of the week, or even mention “tomorrow” in your chat. This is also useful for remembering important schedules and events in your travel itinerary.
Sending and receiving money. Traveling does require money and there will be times when you need to get some from people. When you contact your loved ones or friends in Messenger and mention the need for cash, M will ask if you want to go through with the transaction and, if you confirm, will ask for relevant information so you can go through with it. You can also save your payment information for future transactions.
Although there are many other assistants that are more advanced, Facebook’s M has a lot of potential as a virtual assistant for travelers. There’s definitely a lot to look forward to with Facebook’s ongoing research and development of its artificial intelligence software.