Target Piloting Alexa Competitor

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.



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