According to a new report from CNBC — which cites “people familiar with the matter” — Facebook is working on a new virtual assistant that will go head-to-head with Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, Bixby, Cortana, and the many other voice-activated helpers available today. It will probably be called Facebook Assistant.
Reportedly, Facebook has been working on this virtual assistant since early 2018, right around the time the company killed off its relatively-unknown assistant known simply as M. Facebook’s M lived solely in the Facebook Messenger service and relied mostly on humans for it to work properly, which is a far cry from the advanced machine learning natures of Alexa, Google Assistant, and others.
The virtual assistant market is already overcrowded with at least a dozen companies around the world all trying to push their own product. Therefore, Facebook will be very late in the game if this rumor is true.
It also will be a hard sell, considering the overwhelming number of privacy scandals that have rocked Facebook over the past year. According to NBC News, public trust in Facebook has plummeted 66 percent since the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
These two pieces of info make it seem like a really bad idea for Facebook to attempt to introduce a new virtual assistant to the market. However, Facebook has had some seriously bad ideas recently (Portal smart speaker, anyone?).
According to CNBC, the new Facebook assistant development is led by Ira Snyder, whose title on LinkedIn refers to a “Facebook Assistant.” That team has been allegedly contacting vendors in the smart speaker supply chain, which suggests a new Portal-esque device could be on the way too, but with Facebook Assistant on board.