Facebook Messenger's AI powered virtual personal assistant M has arrived in the UK

Lynsey Barber
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M is Facebook's virtual helper (Source: Getty)

Facebook is offering users of its Messenger chat app a helping hand with a personal assistant powered by AI.

M is the social network's virtual assistant and it's now available in the UK. While it might not be quite as hands on as a real-life butler, it does mean conversations with friends and family on the platform will now come with added benefits.

It can, for example, automatically suggest that you share your location if someone asks where you are. Or, if you start arranging a plan to meet, it will jump in to coordinate. Suggesting that back and forth message with your mate should turn into a call? A message from M will pop up from which you can give them a buzz.

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M first launched in the US in April after being revealed by Facebook last year, taking on the likes of Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana and Google's Allo. Samsung also got in on the act with Bixby, though it remains unavailable to UK users at this point in time.

With 1.2bn around the world already using Messenger, Facebook already has a large potential audience for the assistant compared to rivals.

And a the time it was unveiled, FB's head of messaging services David Marcus said of M: "Unlike other AI-based services in the market, M can actually complete tasks on your behalf. It can purchase items, get gifts delivered to your loved ones, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments and way more."

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One thing missing from M is the ability to send money. In the US, if you're discussing making a payment to someone, it brings up the option to do this through messenger. This payments function is not available in the UK - yet, anyway.

Facebook was granted an e-money license last year that would allow it to launch the features across Europe, sparking speculation that it might be planning to do just that.

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