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article imageFacebook adds suggestions to its Messenger assistant

By James Walker     Apr 7, 2017 in Technology
Facebook has updated M, the digital assistant inside its Messenger app, with the ability to make suggestions. The company is pitching the feature as a way to sustain conversations by suggesting relevant content that keeps messages flowing.
M was announced well over a year ago as a "human-powered" AI that expands Messenger beyond simple messaging. It hasn’t received much attention since its launch but Facebook has now announced a new version that suggests "helpful actions" to aid your chats.
M now acts as a discoverability helper, exposing Messenger features that you may not know about or actively use. Facebook has been testing this new role with a small number of users over the past few months. It said the feature has proved popular, increasing usage of less frequented Messenger capabilities.
The suggestions are similar to those offered by Google's Allo but with much more depth to reflect Messenger's greater capabilities. On a basic level, M will proactively surface stickers that are contextually relevant to your conversation. It can also intelligently share your location and start a payment if it realises you're talking about sending money.
Additional capabilities include automatic poll generation, integration with ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft when you're talking about visiting a place and the option to create a shared plan when you're discussing an upcoming event with friends. M will guide new users into trying out advanced features, removing the need to switch to a different app to carry out common actions.
Each suggestion can be ignored or dismissed to ensure M doesn’t become pushy and intrude when it's not welcomed. The suggestions can be disabled entirely in M's settings, leaving you free to make the decisions yourself if you don't want to be prompted during conversations.
M's new proactive features are available today to U.S. Messenger users with iOS and Android phones. Facebook said that it's working on more "delightful" M-powered experiences for Messenger, developing its ecosystem by offering a quick way to get things done without leaving the app.
"Today we’re excited to announce the launch of suggestions from M to everyone in the U.S. M is your helpful assistant in Messenger, powered by artificial intelligence," said Facebook. "M offers suggestions by popping into an open conversation to suggest relevant content and capabilities to enrich the way people communicate and get things done."
Alongside suggestions, Facebook is also launching an overhauled message composer that makes Messenger's advanced features such as video sharing more accessible. They can now be accessed by long pressing on the text entry field.
Additionally, Facebook is burying most of Messenger's less popular sections, such as Games, Payments and Rides, under a new "More" tab, reflecting how the rapid growth of Messenger has led to feature bloat. The interface has now been tidied up, making it easier to start typing a new response.
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