It was just last summer when I started reading articles about Facebook M. From what I could tell, it was a virtual assistant built into Facebook and I wanted it it really badly. Here’s what Wired magazine said about “M” when it first came out:
Built atop Facebook Messenger — the company’s instant messaging app — M, arriving on the phones of a few hundred unsuspecting souls in the San Francisco Bay Area. Yes, it’s the company’s answer to Siri and similar services like Google Now and Microsoft Cortana. But it tackles a broader range of tasks, at least as Facebook describes it. You can ask M questions along the lines of Can you make me dinner reservations? or even Can you help me plan my next vacation? — and it will comply.
Whenever I’d sign into Facebook messenger, I’d do a quick scan of my friends list to look for “M” (hint: it never showed up). My first experience with a chat bot was SmarterChild. Remember SmarterChild on AIM?
“These [programs] really formed what is being built today,” said Peter Martinazzi, a product manager for Messenger. “We did a really slow and deliberate approach over the past year, learning along the way.” The Messenger for Businesses initiatives, he said, have been successful. “People have messaged businesses twice as much as they did before.”
Yesterday Facebook announced the arrival of Bots at their annual F8 developers conference. You can try them right now too! Here’s how:
Download the latest version of Facebook Messenger. Underneath people you’ll see a row of pre populated “Bots”. Right now theres only a few bots, but Facebook promised more to coming in the following weeks. When you select your bot of choice, a splash page will pop up telling you what it does. There’s a “Get started” button that will start the “conversation”.
The bots that were pre populated for me are CNN, Hi Poncho, Shop Spring and 1–800-Flowers. I decided to try Shop Spring. Here’s how that conversation went:
It worked much better then the IBM Watson Northface Shopping Assistant I tried out earlier this year. The answers were quick, although I only went through their suggested workflow — it did give me the ability to ask my own questions as well.
It’s also being said that bots are being developed for Skype and Microsoft as well. Companies are aware that Facebook is where the money is. Developing bots for Messenger ahead of the competitors is a no brainer.
It’s not all sunshines and rainbows in “bot” lane. I did notice something annoying, the app messaged me a few hours later — unprompted to ask If I was still interested.
Whenever I log onto Facebook, I get excited because I have new messages — but it’s just CNN updating me with their latest news (which I already get notifications on my phone and watch).