Facebook's new M assistant merges Apple's data detectors & rumored Siri Messages enhancements

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Taking it out of a year-long test phase, Facebook on Friday launched "M," a new AI assistant integrated into Messenger that bears some similarity to Apple's data detectors, as well as rumored Siri integration into Messages for "iOS 11."

Unlike the earliest versions of M — which depended on human help — the final product is fully automated, Facebook said. As a person talks in Messenger, M will occasionally interject with suggestions such as sending stickers, sharing location, or sending and requesting money.

More complex help may involve hailing an Uber or Lyft, planning an event, or starting a poll in group conversations. As a person uses it, M should gradually adapt and evolve.

The AI's options will mainly pop up in the form of in-chat buttons, which can be dismissed on a case-by-case basis by swiping them, or muted entirely through settings.

M will appear for all iOS and Android Messenger users in the U.S. starting today, gradually rolling out to other countries. Facebook noted that it's simultaneously deploying a new message composition interface meant to highlight advanced features, for instance through a "More" tab. Long presses should make it easier to insert photos and videos.

Data detectors introduced in iOS 10 provide functionality similar to M, such as turning a Messages question about seeing a movie into a link to showtimes. Apple's approach is generally more subtle however, and may involve leaving the app to complete some actions.

"iOS 11" — which should be revealed at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in June — has been rumored as gaining similarly adaptive Siri integration in Messages. In one example, talking about eating sushi might lead Siri to suggest places, reservations, and/or ridesharing services.


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