​SK Telecom launches AI-based voice assistant service

The first to understand the Korean language, SK Telecom's NUGU virtual assistant service is armed with advanced voice recognition, natural language processing, and deep learning technology to help your way around the home.

SK Telecom has introduced its artificial intelligence (AI) based voice assistant service for the home.

To be launched on September 1 and called NUGU, which means "who" in Korean, the service will be launched as a Wi-Fi connected 21.9 centimeter-tall cylinder-shaped device that acts as a home speaker and LED light. It will be the first virtual home assistant service that understands and processes the Korean language.

Consumers can interact with the device to give it commands related to the house, SK Telecom said, such as music recommendation and playback, configuring smart electric plugs, gas valve lock, and air purifier and dehumidifier.

Users initiate dialogue by saying one of four words -- Aria, Crystal, Rebecca, and Tinkerbell -- and then make voice commands. NUGU will be able to play requested music and relay information in full Korean sentences, such as weather.

Armed with SK Telecom's self-developed natural language processing engine and a cloud-based deep-learning framework, NUGU will evolve by itself and speech recognition accuracy will increase as more and more customers use the service.

The telco will constantly provide new functions by software upgrades and later add voice-enabled internet shopping and food delivery, real-time traffic information linked to its T Map mobile navigation service, and internet radio, news, and audiobooks.

Besides the speaker, SK Telecom will also provide new NUGU-enabled devices such as a wearable humanoid robot and in-vehicle gadgets at a later date. The firm will open APIs of the platform next year to bring in third-party developers for expansion.

The speaker will be priced at 249,000 won.

AI has indelibly entered the public consciousness in South Korea since the historic Go match between Google's AlphaGo and a Korean champion in Seoul in March. The government since promised $3 billion in research and development for the area over the next five years.

Samsung launched an ultrasound device armed with deep learning technology in April.

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