Facebook’s virtual assistant M is dead, so are chatbots

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An interesting viewpoint from Wire on the rise and fall (?) of chatbots.

It was easy for M’s leaders to win internal support and resources for the project in 2015, when chatbots felt novel and full of possibility. But as it became clear that M would always require a sizable workforce of expensive humans, the idea of expanding the service to a broader audience became less viable.

M’s core problem: Facebook put no bounds on what M could be asked to do. Alexa has proven adept at handling a narrower range of questions, many tied to facts, or Amazon’s core strength in shopping.

Another challenge: When M could complete tasks, users asked for progressively harder tasks. A fully automated M would have to do things far beyond the capabilities of existing machine learning technology. Today’s best algorithms are a long way from being able to really understand all the nuances of natural language.

“We launched this project to learn what people needed and expected of an assistant, and we learned a lot,” Facebook said in a statement. “We’re taking these useful insights to power other AI projects at Facebook. We continue to be very pleased with the performance of M suggestions in Messenger, powered by our learnings from this experiment.”

https://www.wired.com/story/facebooks-virtual-assistant-m-is-dead-so-are-chatbots/

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