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Facebook is testing voice commands for Messenger

Voice commands are the future of the way we interact with technology. From voice search to voice-enabled smart assistants, verbal commands are making their presence felt in just about every aspect of our virtual existence. Cashing in on the rising popularity of this trend and the convenience that comes with it, Facebook is reportedly testing voice commands for its Messenger to dictate messages, initiate voice calls and setup reminders.

The new feature was caught by social media feature-spotter Jane Manchun Wong within the code for the Android version of the Facebook Messenger app. Soon after, the development was reported by TechCrunch with a confirmation from Facebook that it was "internally testing the voice command."

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The new Android code reveals an M assistant button placed atop the message threads that can be activated for giving out voice commands. When rolled out, the new feature would make using Messenger a hands-free experience and also make it relevant to a user-base of dexterity and visually impaired users. If expanded to languages other than English, the voice commands could also come in handy for users whose native languages are particularly tricky to type.

Previously, Facebook was testing speech transcription for its Aloha voice assistant believed to be used for its upcoming video chat screen device, the Portal. The M assistant for voice commands is, however, a completely new development. One that goes on to demonstrate an overhaul of strategy at Facebook Messenger, where voice commands were considered unnecessary just two years ago.

In response to a query on this development, a spokesperson for Facebook Messenger told TechCrunch, “We often experiment with new experiences on Messenger with employees. We have nothing more to share at this time.”

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The new voice command feature seems to a part of Facebook’s attempt to differentiate its Messenger from other texting platforms such as Android Messages, Snapchat and SMS. As part of this strategy to make the Messenger a platform that offers utility and character, Facebook plans on doing away frivolous features such as games and giant camera access that can get in the way of chat and replace them with GIFs, Emojis and Stickers enhanced by augmented reality camera effects.

Voice commands fit the bill of this Messenger redesign perfectly, as they add to the usability of the platform without compromising its core value proposition.

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