Not quite ready to let Amazon win at creating the world’s digital personal assistant, Target has partnered with natural language processing (NLP) startup AddStructure to pilot what has been called a “white-label” spin on Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant.
According to reporting by Chicago Tribune, Target is signed on for a six-to-nine-month pilot of AddStructure’s NLP solution, with similar pair-ups for AddStructure with L’Oreal and Under Armour soon to follow. AddStructure is one of 10 graduates of Target + TechStars accelerator program.
Target is far from early to the NLP party. Natural language processing is a key component to virtual personal assistants and chatbots, usually paired with a healthy dose of learning AI. Etsy has recently acquired Blackbird Technologies, a company which uses NLP, while Staples is building a literal easy button made smart by NLP.
Whether Target’s version of the solution works is eagerly awaited, and it is at least positive that AddStructure is a graduate of Target’s program because it has in-house and up-close experience with Target’s system, which is important as it tries to integrate a new capacity. While the hope for NLP is often well-expressed, the continual question is about execution. Alexa, so far, has earned high marks; chatbots, on the other hand, remain more a work in progress.
But the field remains open, and AddStructure shows there is still room for startups to change the nature of the field.