Facebook is allowing a handful of developers to create automated chat robots that work through its Facebook Messenger app, TechCrunch reports.
Right now, Facebook is testing a bot named M that some users have been given access to. They can use it to order things online, and to carry out other tasks. It’s basically an automated personal assistant.
But TechCrunch reports that Facebook has secretly developed tools for developers to build automated Messenger bots of their own.
Chat bots can be used for things like ordering food, looking up information, and making payments. It’s a way of making Facebook’s Messenger app more useful, while also keeping users tied into Facebook.
It might seem strange that people would want to buy food by speaking to a robot through a chat app, but it’s hugely popular in Asia. Chat apps like WeChat and Line allow developers to build automated accounts that people can message. Now it looks like Facebook wants to replicate that here.