Virtual assistant

Meet SKT’s new mobile virtual assistant, A.

Meet SKT’s new mobile virtual assistant, A.

A promotional image of A. (SK Telecom)

South Korea’s largest mobile operator, SK Telecom, on Monday unveiled an open beta version of a virtual assistant that the company says aims to provide an “intimate” and “emotional” experience for mobile phone users. Android.

Baptized A., pronounced “ay-dot”, the Korean-language virtual assistant takes on the appearance of a toddler in a raincoat. Powered by a natural language processing model, users will be able to engage the virtual assistant in conversation on topics such as the weather or ask it to play music or videos. It also offers foreign language support in English, Chinese, and Japanese.

“(A.) was developed based on the GPT-3 language model, which enables users to engage in a smooth conversation with the assistant,” said Lee Hyun-a, vice president and chief product officer. of SK Telecom, in a press release. Monday press briefing.

Lee added that SK Telecom is accepting feedback from open beta users so it can upgrade the virtual assistant, although the language processing engine consists of “tens of millions of variables”.

The launch of A. marks an expansion of SK Telecom’s artificial intelligence platform, Lee also said, as the A. system will be integrated into what serves as the backbone of its language processing services such as the NUGU smart speaker. .

Users of the first version of A. will be allowed to choose from five different characters, eight voice tones and two Korean language modes, formal and informal.

SK Telecom CPO Lee Hyun-a speaks during a press briefing on Monday. (SK Telecom)

The character options are designed to provide users with a sense of emotional attachment to A.’s visual agent, said Yea Hui-kang, vice president and head of brand strategy office at SK Telecom.

“We expect users to create an emotional touch from the characters, as the characters provide a sense of intimacy based on verbal interactions,” Yea told reporters.

The app can currently search and recommend songs or media content through apps offered by SK Telecom affiliates, such as music streaming app Flo, internet streaming platform Wavve, outdoor navigation app T Map and the Nate web portal.

SK Telecom said the pool of available content A. is able to handle will expand with more collaborations with third-party entities throughout this year.

In addition, A.’s multimodal understanding will be available next year, so that he can understand and process input in the form of words and pictures.

Regarding the issue of personal data protection and information bias, Lee Sang-ho, chief technology officer of SK Telecom, said the company “filters” sensitive and biased information so that A. treaty.

The voice assistant’s open beta is available for free download on Google Play and App Store One Store starting Monday, and will be available on Apple’s App Store in June.

This comes against the backdrop of global competition to gain an edge in the virtual assistant market using large-scale AI models.

Last week, Google announced its latest laMDA 2 language processing model for a more advanced dialog application, along with its features that removed the need for users to engage in “Hey Google” chats and understand fillers. verbal.

Also in Korea, internet giants Naver and Kakao have shown interest in the market for large-scale AI engines that understand and process Korean languages. LG Corp., a holding company of the LG conglomerate, has engaged in multimodal language processing projects with its engine called Exaone.

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