Facebook’s Messenger is rolling out a few new ways for its in-app virtual assistant, M, to contribute to people’s conversations.
M will now recognize when people are talking about going to see a movie and present a button to buy tickets through Fandango. It will also nudge people to share GIFs and offer quick-reply buttons that people can tap to send simple responses like “yes” or “no.” These features will begin to roll out on Thursday to people in the US, and people can disable these suggestions through Messenger’s in-app settings.
Facebook Messenger has been adding opportunities for M to augment a conversation since introducing M Suggestions in April. The virtual assistant uses Facebook’s machine learning technology to parse what people are saying in a message thread and present relevant prompts, like sending a friend money using Messenger’s native payments feature, hailing a Lyft ride through the messaging service and bookmarking web links.
Messenger has also been extending this supporting role to businesses through its Chat Extensions feature that was unveiled in April. That feature lets people invoke a bot from a message thread with their friends to do things like order food or book a restaurant reservation without exiting Messenger.
Chat Extensions are effectively a version of a business’s mobile site that are tailored to Messenger and tie into the messaging app. They enable the bots to temporarily join and supplement existing conversations between two or more friends. As a result, people can share content from a Chat Extension as messages to the current thread, and businesses can receive a person’s business-specific user ID, which can be connected to an entry in a company’s customer database, to personalize the web page. OpenTable, Spotify and Kayak are among the early Chat Extensions entrants.
Now, Fandango has developed its own Chat Extension, and M will prompt people to use it when it recognizes a conversation centering on movies. People will be able to use Fandango’s Chat Extension to browse showtimes from within Messenger, share them the message thread, and purchase tickets as they would on Fandango’s regular mobile site.