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Facebook’s digital assistant to come with human intervention

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Facebook has announced the testing of a new personal assistant service called M. According to the company, M is powered by artificial intelligence as well as supervised by humans. The company claims the assistant will be able to purchase items, get gifts delivered, book restaurants and travel arrangements, set appointments etc.

Since the assistant is still in testing stages, there is no news on when the service will be widely available. The company mentions that “this is early in the journey to build M into an at-scale service.” However, Facebook will still likely beta test the product, so we might actually see ‘M’ roll out to some users before others.

On going live, M will compete with other virtual assistants such as Siri, Cortana and Google Now. However, what makes Facebook’s initiative interesting is the addition of human intervention, although, given that M is still in testing stages, it’s not clear how useful or practical human intervention will be. We will be interested to see if Facebook implements human intervention for backend work or to directly serve users. Either way, it will also be interesting to see how the company will scale the assistant, while delivering consistent results with human intervention.

Other developments:

– Earlier this month, Facebook extended its autoplay video ads to third-party mobile apps that sell ads through the social network’s Audience Network. There is an opt out for autoplay for videos in Facebook where users can set the feature only when the device is using WiFi.

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– Again this month, Facebook launched its own livestreaming service through its Facebook Mentions app, which would allow verified influencers and celebrities to engage with fans and audiences. The service, called Live, competes with Twitter’s Periscope and Meerkat.

– Facebook, which had started testing a buy button for Shopify in June, extended this feature to various business’ Facebook pages in July. The new feature would let retailers sell items directly through their business page, turning it into a partial ecommerce store.

– In July, the company said it was working on delivering internet globally via a bunch of drones, satellites and lasers. According to founder Mark Zuckerberg internet signals would be beamed down from a plane or a satellite flying overhead, which would communicate to earth using accurate lasers to transfer data.

Facebook India numbers: Social networking website Facebook’s Indian user base grew by 5.6% from 118 million monthly active users (MAUs) in Q4 2014 (December 2014) to 125 million MAUs in Q1 2015 (March 2015), out of which 114 million were mobile MAUs. Facebook India’s daily active users (DAUs) are at 59 million in Q1, up from 55 million in Q4, out of which 53 million DAUs come through mobile (as opposed to 49 million DAUs in Q4), accounting for over 89.8% of Facebook’s daily traffic as of March 2015

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