Facebook is testing a service called “Moneypenny” that connects users of its Messenger chat app to real people for product-buying advice, according to reports.
Rather than being a virtual assistant similar to Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa or Google Now, Moneypenny is apparently powered by humans, similar to a concierge system.
The service is being tested within Facebook’s Messenger app, which has recently been broken away from the core Facebook social network experience to create a separate messaging system and secondary platform that can be used without a Facebook account.
It is likely to form part of the social network’s push to capture users outside its ecosystem, as illustrated by its purchase of WhatsApp and other apps and services, including photo-sharing service Instagram.
According to the Information, Facebook is currently testing the system internally, which is designed to aid in the researching and ordering of products. Facebook has declined to comment.
Several other services have attempted the human touch, rather than using algorithms and machine learning to deliver information via a virtual assistant-style interface.
Magic, GoButler and Operator all do similar things, operating a concierge-like system.
With Amazon recently breaking out its Alexa digital assistant from its Echo speaker, and Microsoft bringing its Cortana AI to Windows and other platforms, the first major battle between humans and machines may be fought in the world of online personal assistants.
This article was written by Samuel Gibbs, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 14th July 2015 12.08 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010