Facebook has begun testing a Messenger app virtual assistant that the leading social network says goes beyond artificial intelligence programs already on the market.
The personal digital assistant - dubbed "M" - completes tasks along with seeking out information at the behest of users.
"Unlike other AI-based services in the market, M can actually complete tasks on your behalf," Facebook's David Marcus said in an online post.
"It can purchase items, get gifts delivered to your loved ones, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments and way more."
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Marcus described the test as an early step in a journey toward building a large-scale service using the virtual assistant software.
Word of M came just two days after Microsoft made its Cortana virtual assistant software available to users of Android mobile devices.
Cortana is Microsoft's answer to Apple's Siri and Google Now, which respond to voice commands on mobile devices.
The launch is part of an effort by Microsoft to expand its mobile presence despite a weak showing for its Windows Phone devices.