With all the smartphone platforms boasting virtual personal assistants, the phrases, ” Hey Siri can you..” and “Okay Google…” have made their way into everyday life.

Each service has its own specialties and features but the majority of them use algorithms and data pulled from your online profiles to assist you as best they can. These apps are now about be shaken up by a new player entering the personal assistant space.

Facebook has unveiled its answer to the likes of Siri, Cortana and Google Now personal assistant apps, M. To call it an app however, would be a bit of a faux pas because according to Facebook, M will appear to users as a contact in the existing Messenger app.

The difference between M and apps such as Cortana or Google Now is that M will ask you questions pertaining to your request before sending that information off to M trainers. These M trainers are a group of Facebook employees who will be sitting behind the scenes interpreting the data you send back and tailoring solutions according to your requests.

It would appear Facebook wants to make the personal assistant, personal again
It would appear Facebook wants to make the personal assistant, personal again

Interestingly, at launch, the service will not draw information from your existing Facebook profile and will instead start fresh using only the questions you answer and previous conversations between you and M. The idea behind M is to create a service that learns the nuances of each individual and is able to tailor requests to a particular user.

According to Facebook, M trainers are there to fill in the gaps that an algorithm can’t. If you were to, for example, fire up M and ask it where the best place is to have a drink on Friday night it’ll list some suggestions. Not only that, but thanks to the M trainers, M can go one step further and order an Uber for you too.

It’s this intuitive aspect that, Facebook hopes, will drive users to the service and grow their mobile business.

While this sounds like a great service it will be some time before every one of the 700 million Messenger users are able to use M. For the moment it has been released exclusively in the Bay Area, San Francisco, and though there are plans to grow the service, its expansion requires M trainers who are knowledgeable about the areas they’ll be operating in. It wouldn’t make sense to make a Sandton socialite an M trainer in Bloemfontein for example because they just won’t know about the terrain.

The thing we like about M that sets it apart is that its personal the suggestions are based on you and in a world where algorithms decide what adverts we see based on that website you visited once back in 2009 it makes a welcome change.

[Via – Wired] [Image CC by 2.0 – Kārlis Dambrāns]