Facebook announces will no longer your every whim


By Garett Sloane. Published on .

An attendee sits in front of a messenger logo during a Facebook developers conference in San Francisco.
An attendee sits in front of a messenger logo during a Facebook developers conference in San Francisco. Credit: Michael Short/Bloomberg

Say goodbye to M, Facebook::ASPAS::s experimental virtual assistant.

The company is shutting down M::ASPAS::s services without even letting it leave the testing phase, where it had operated since 2015. The service once seemed to hold the promise of acting as a digital concierge, helping people book hotels, order food, keep their schedules and perform other tasks.

It was a playground for Facebook to experiment with artificial intelligence, which the company says it plans to continue to do. But it also might have become a digital assistant that could compete with Apple::ASPAS::s Siri, Amazon::ASPAS::s Alexa and Google. Facebook hasn::ASPAS::t developed a smart-speaker for homes either to match the devices from its rivals that have brought their digital assistants into people::ASPAS::s living rooms. It::ASPAS::s unclear what Facebook::ASPAS::s ambitions in the space are now.

"We launched this project to learn what people needed and expected of an assistant, and we learned a lot," a Facebook spokeswoman said in an e-mailed statement. "We::ASPAS::re taking these useful insights to power other AI projects at Facebook."

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has expressed interest in home automation and artificial intelligence, and built a custom home systemhe named Jarvis in 2016. Jarvis was voiced by Morgan Freeman, and helped run Zuckerberg::ASPAS::s household.

M was backed by a team of people who helped complete tasks when the AI component couldn::ASPAS::t handle more sophisticated requests. Facebook said it would reassign the team that had been working in support of M.

M will continue to live on Facebook::ASPAS::s Messenger, where it still can pop up with suggestions based on text conversations. For instance, it can offer a link to food if someone says they::ASPAS::re hungry. Messenger is Facebook::ASPAS::s messaging app, which has become a testing ground for brands to build bots that interact with and help consumers.

"We continue to be very pleased with the performance of M suggestions in Messenger, powered by our learnings from this experiment," the Facebook spokeswoman said.


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