Everything you need to know about Facebook Messenger’s M assistant

Why it matters to you

Facebook’s M AI assistant is getting smarter by the day. Here are just a few ways to take advantage of the tool.

Notice a little “M” logo near the textbox in Facebook Messenger? It’s the social media network’s artificially intelligent assistant that’s meant to offer suggestions in your conversations — similar to how Google Assistant can jump in to help in conversations via Allo. With the assistant officially rolled out across the U.S., it is now available in both English and Spanish to all Messenger users in the country.

M is now able to provide suggestions in Spanish — like sending payments or sharing your location — and the feature is gradually rolling out in Mexico for iOS and Android, Facebook told Digital Trends. If you’d like to receive M Suggestions in Spanish, you can change the preferred language to Spanish.

M itself is powered by Facebook-built AI, and so far works by popping up in your chats when it detects that it can help with something. For example, if you mention going somewhere, M can detect this and will offer up a quick way to book a ride with Uber or Lyft (you can set your preference) — all without leaving the Messenger app.

Before diving into what Facebook’s M can do, there are a few things to keep in mind. Most importantly, Facebook is still working on M and it’s likely the assistant will evolve a lot over the next few months and years. It will also roll out globally at some point as Facebook says users across the globe will “start seeing a redesigned way to compose messages.” If you want nothing to do with this AI revolution, or if you think M makes your conversations too cluttered, you can mute it by heading to Messenger’s settings — tap on the person icon on the top-right of Messenger’s main page, then tap M settings and toggle Suggestions off.

A lot of M’s functions are available in Facebook Messenger — simply tap on the “+” icon on the left, and you’ll be able to share your location, book a ride, plan an event, and more. All M does is take away an extra step, and it reminds you these features exist in Messenger. If M has indeed caught your eye, here’s a list of all the ways it can currently help in your conversations.

M suggestions

With Facebook’s latest update, M will proactively make suggestions, including for GIFs, quick responses, and movies. Previously, M suggested that you save your content from within Messenger conversations, allowing you to easily read, watch, or share content with other friends. But now, in addition to suggesting URLs, videos, pages, and other internal Facebook content, the bot will also help you jazz up your exchanges.

With GIF suggestions, anytime you type in a phrase like, “Hello” or “See you later,” a GIF picker bar will show you moving images that could be used instead. After all, why say something with words when you can say it with a live picture? M will also now make suggestions to help you quickly reply to a message, which could save you precious seconds if you’re jumping from conversation to conversation.

Then, there’s M’s new Fandango chat extension, which is a bit creepy in that it “listens” to conversations with your friends, and will suggest nearby showtimes and theaters if it notes that you’ve been chatting (in Messenger) about a film. You can even buy tickets directly within Messenger.

“Moviegoing is inherently social, and we’ve been working with Facebook for several years on social innovations around movie discovery, planning and ticket buying,” Fandango president Paul Yanover said in a statement. “This is another great example of how we’re connecting fans with movies in the natural social environments where they are already discussing movies.”

The service will also suggest other things. For example, if you’re chatting with someone who is celebrating their birthday, M will suggest you send them a note or sticker.

Last, but not least, is voice or video calls. If M detects that someone expresses interest in a call, M will suggest a voice or video call within Messenger — and all you’ll have to do is tap a button to initiate that call.

Stickers

best messenger bots f8 2017 m

Facebook’s M can help make using stickers a little easier, preventing the need to search through them. During your chats, M may suggest stickers relating to whatever you’re talking about. For example, if someone says goodbye, you may see a group of stickers depicting “goodbye,” like the image above. You can swipe left or right to hide these suggestions.

Location sharing

During a conversation, it might be appropriate to share your location with the other person in the chat. If you’re meeting up with a friend who asks where you are, M will suggest you share your location. It’s not hard to share your location without M, too. Tap the “+” icon on the left and scroll to Location. You can share your real-time location for 60 minutes.

Settings reminders

Your phone probably has a way to set reminders, such as with Siri on iOS or Google Assistant on Android. Reminders with M will involve others, such as when a significant other or friend asks you to remind them of something. These are not location-based reminders, sadly, but just time-based.

Sending and requesting money

It has been possible to send money to friends with Messenger for a while, but M makes it easy. If someone mentions sending or requesting money, M will ask members of the conversation if they want to follow through. It’s really pretty easy to use — but you will have to enter your payment information first. You can store your payment information beforehand by heading into Messenger’s settings and scrolling to Payments.

Planning Events

Facebook M can also help you plan out events. Perhaps the easiest way that it does so is by looking for things like restaurants nearby — so if the assistant sees you planning to meet up with a friend, it will let you create an event with a name, date, and time.

Hail a ride

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Along with helping you plan where you want to go, M can help you get there too. When you’re planning to meet up with a friend to go somewhere, M will suggest you book an Uber or Lyft, and it will help you through the booking process — you never have to leave Messenger.

Starting a poll

Last but not least is the ability to start a poll, however this option is only available in a group chat. If you’re asking a question in a group chat, for example, M might suggest a poll to more easily gather information.

Update: M now makes suggestions for movies thanks to a Fandango partnership. 

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Social Media–Digital Trends

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