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Japan's Line Corp. To Launch AI App, Speaker

Line Corp., owner of Japan’s most popular messaging service, is getting into the artificial intelligence market in a big way by outlining an ambitious plan that pits it against the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon.

According to a report in Bloomberg News, Line Corp. is gearing up to launch a suite of AI software tools that will enable a digital assistant that speaks in Japanese and Korean. The assistant will be able to converse with users and provide weather and news via a dedicated smartphone app or a speaker that sits on the table and is called Wave, similar to Amazon’s Echo.

Line Corp., which unveiled the strategy during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, this week, said both the app and the speaker will come to the market between April and June. While Line faces a lot of competition, the company thinks it can stand out from the pack because of its local knowledge about the markets in which it is operating, including South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia.

“There is a shift toward toward post-smartphone, post-touch technologies,” Chief Executive Officer Takeshi Idezawa said in an interview with Bloomberg. “These connected devices will permeate even deeper into our daily lives and therefore must even closer match the local needs, languages and cultures.”

According to the report, Line’s AI software platform was developed with its parent company Naver Corp., which operates a search engine. While Line is mainly a messaging app, customers use it to read the news, get a taxi ride and find part-time work. All of that content and interaction in local languages provides Line with an edge over larger rivals, noted the report, with Idezawa arguing that the AI experience is only as good as the data it’s trained on.

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