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CHN | May 25, 2023

TikTok testing AI chatbot called ‘Tako’, research firm says

/ Our Today

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The TikTok logo is pictured outside the company’s U.S. head office in Culver City, California, U.S. (File Photo: REUTERS/Mike Blake)

HONG KONG (Reuters)

Social media platform TikTok is testing an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot that can converse with users about short videos and help them discover content, an app intelligence firm said.

Israeli-based Watchful Technologies said it has found the AI chatbot dubbed “Tako” on some versions of the TikTok app on Apple Inc mobile devices.

Screenshots and video Watchful shared with Reuters showed the chatbot featuring prominently on the app’s interface as a ghost-shaped icon, which users can tap while watching videos to have text-based conversations and get help finding content.

A smartphone with a displayed TikTok logo is placed on a computer motherboard in this illustration. (File Photo: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration)

Asked about Tako, a TikTok spokesperson said the social media platform was always exploring new technology.

“In select markets, we’re testing new ways to power search and discovery on TikTok, and we look forward to learning from our community as we continue to create a safe place that entertains, inspires creativity, and drives culture,” the spokesperson said.

The effort comes after OpenAI, backed by Microsoft Corp, late last year launched next-generation chatbot ChatGPT offering arguably the most natural interaction to date. That triggered a race in the industry to develop features based on game-changing generative AI, including TikTok rival Snap Inc whose “My AI” is powered by ChatGPT technology.

The TikTok app logo is seen in this illustration (File Photo: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration)

In April, U.S. media outlets reported that TikTok was experimenting with a generative AI tool to allow users to create avatars. China-based parent ByteDance is working on a large AI model, Chinese media reported, but it does not currently offer AI chatbot features on its Chinese equivalent of TikTok, Douyin.

Disclosure filed with the U.S. patent and trademark office last month showed TikTok had submitted a trademark application for “TikTok Tako” in categories including “computer software for the artificial production of human speech and text”.

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A person holds a smartphone as the Tik Tok logo is displayed behind in this picture illustration. (File Photo: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic)

Watchful researcher Daniel Buchuk said his team started to find references to Tako on some versions of the TikTok app earlier this month, including on a test version on an iOS device in the United States.

Watchful uses computer vision as well as data analysis to identify and emulate app changes. It monitors devices in different countries but was unable to establish in which markets TikTok was conducting its tests.

Unlike ChatGPT, which is positioned as an all-purpose chatbot, Tako feels more like a navigation assistant with a focus on encouraging users to watch more videos, Buchuk said.

“So if you’re asking ‘When was King Charles’ coronation?’ Tako will tell you the answer, but then you’ll also see relevant TikTok videos,” he said.

A girl is holding her smartphone with the logo of the short video app TikTok in her hands

Another demonstration by Watchful showed that when a user asks Tako a question, such as “How can we teach respect to children”, the chatbot replies by summarising tips from TikTok users while also recommending related videos.

TikTok has set a disclaimer saying Tako is an experimental chatbot and that responses could be inaccurate. It said it will review conversations with Tako for safety purposes and warned users not to share private information with it.

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