Facebook is testing out a new personal assistant service that will be built into the company’s messenger app. The service will help people shop and research items that can later be ordered directly through Facebook Messenger. But unlike Siri or Cortana or other virtual assistants, Facebook’s newest helper will be human powered.
The company is calling the assistant ‘Moneypenny’ after the secretary in James Bond films. Facebook hasn’t gone the virtual reality route with Moneypenny. This assistant will act more like a personal shopper, and she will be a real person that helps guide you through the shopping and researching process. Since Moneypenny won’t be just one person, it will be interesting to see how Facebook manages to help out all of its Messenger users with this new assistant program.
Facebook isn’t alone in the personal assistant arena. Various other companies are testing out personal concierge-type platforms too including ‘Operator,’ which was founded by Uber’s co-founder. It seems like people want help researching products to purchase, and there’s a market for these types of services.
In Beta Mode
Facebook’s Moneypenny is currently in beta mode, and it’s being tested internally by the Facebook staff. Presumably, it would work something like this: you log into Messenger, ask Moneypenny to help you find something, and the service pulls up information about the product that you have been looking for. It’s kind of like having a personal assistant do the research for you, so that all you have to do is purchase the item through the app.
The one question that springs to mind here is whether or not a company like Facebook will only showcase research results from companies that have paid Facebook to do so. So, you may only get the search results that showcase products from companies that have struck a deal with the social network. Then again, this might not be the case.
A Separate Service
Facebook split its Messenger service from the main Facebook app some time ago, and the company is clearly looking for a way to improve upon that service. It’s likely that Facebook will be adding more features to Messenger soon, so you may see a plethora of new features added to the Messenger app within the next few months.
It’s interesting to note how companies like Facebook and a slew of new startups are going back to the human role of the personal assistant. While virtual assistants like Siri could find information for people, it seems like shoppers want help from actual people when it comes to finding things. If you do shop online a lot, you might find what Facebook is doing useful.
Then again, you could just research the items that you want to buy on your own. Either way, Facebook’s new assistant is coming to a Messenger app near you very soon (no specific date has been announced yet). While I’m loving the name that Facebook has given to this new service, it’s unlikely that Moneypenny will be the final outcome.