Facebook Reportedly Testing Human-Powered Virtual Assistant
While its tech competitors are increasingly using artificial intelligence to provide online help to users, Facebook is reportedly exploring the possibility of a virtual assistant powered by humans. Its alternative to digital personal assistants like Microsoft's Cortana and Apple's Siri is said to be code-named "Moneypenny," after "M's" secretary in the James Bond stories.
A Facebook spokesperson declined to offer further details about Moneypenny, first described today by The Information, noting, "We don't comment on rumor or speculation."
According to the article in The Information, Moneypenny would be a feature within Facebook's fast-evolving Messenger service. Users would access Moneypenny for help with online research or to order goods and services.
Rapidly Evolving Messenger
Facebook has recently rolled out a number of changes to Messenger, which made its debut as a mobile instant messaging app in 2011. Those changes have both added new capabilities and expanded Messenger's reach beyond the world of Facebook Likes and News Feeds.
In March, the social networking giant announced the launch of Messenger Business, designed to make it easier for retailers and other companies to communicate with customers throughout the browsing, ordering and delivery process. Also making its debut at the same time was Messenger Platform, which helps developers create a wide range of in-Messenger apps.
Shortly afterward, Facebook also made Messenger available as a standalone Web site service accessible via desktops. Other new features include support for in-app payments, caller ID-like functionality, and GIF button sharing.
Rise of Digital and Virtual Assistants
Digital personal assistants such as Microsoft's Cortana and Apple's Siri are becoming increasingly "intelligent" and able to respond effectively to natural language queries and even gestures. However, human-assisted online and mobile services are also becoming more widely used.
For example, a California-based startup called Plus Labs recently came out with "Magic," a mobile text-based service that lets users text any request -- from delivery of a pizza and Diet Coke to booking an airline flight -- to its number. A person on the other end then fulfills the request for a fee that depends upon the service required. (The request itself is free.)
The number of human virtual assistants -- remote workers who handle day-to-day tasks for one or several clients at a time -- are also on the rise as companies reduce the number of full-time, on-location staff. Like other workers in the online, on-demand world, virtual assistants tend to be self-employed independent contractors.
Image credit: Facebook; iStock/Artist's concept.
Posted: 2015-07-17 @ 11:37am PT
I like the idea! Belinda @ VirtualAssistants.com
Posted: 2015-07-15 @ 2:56am PT
Love the name usage--Moneypenny!! 😀😀