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Facebook Folds Facial Recognition Technology Into Messenger

Facebook's push into AI continues.


Facebook Messenger is getting smarter.

Facebook is folding its facial recognition technology into its messaging app, Messenger. It’s the same tech used within Facebook to encourage users to tag their friends in photos. In Messenger’s case, the app will now look at your photos, identify who is in them, and encourage you to share those photos with those friends.

The whole point of this is to get people sharing more on Messenger, specifically within groups, explained Messenger product manager Peter Martinazzi. Facebook is building lots of artificial intelligence, and it’s starting to get more aggressive about integrating that technology into actual consumer products. The facial recognition tech, for example, was also folded into the company’s new photo storage app, Moments, a few months back. Messenger is also testing a virtual assistant to help people do everyday tasks like shop or manage their calendars.

The point of all this is to keep people engaged the app. If Facebook Messenger can remind you to share photos with your friends or pick up your dry cleaning, you may be more likely to use it than other messaging apps or services.

“We like to look at the use cases for what people are doing now and what people could be doing, and how could we make it even easier,” said Martinazzi, who added that people used Messenger to send 9.5 billion photos last month. “Lots of times [artificial intelligence] can be a great tool for that.”

The challenge, though, will be making products that feel smarter without feeling too smart or creepy. If facial recognition technology inside your messaging app feels that way to you, you can turn off the feature in settings.

Messenger is only launching the new feature as part of an app update in Australia on Monday, but plans to roll it out more broadly in the coming weeks.

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