AI speakers get to work outside of the home

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AI speakers get to work outside of the home


Models use SK Telecom’s voice assistant Nugu at a CU convenience store in Seoul on Wednesday. Nugu has been installed at 100 CU stores nationwide and can answer some 200 inquiries from employees. [SK TELECOM]

Voice assistant speakers, which used to be limited to household tasks, are now taking over duties at businesses like convenience stores and hotels.

SK Telecom said Wednesday that Korea’s leading convenience store chain CU has added SK’s artificial intelligence-enabled voice assistant Nugu to its shops after signing a partnership to do so last year.

Nugu can answer up to 200 different business inquiries for CU staff, who previously had to call the headquarters or look for information online, the mobile carrier said.

Nugu can inform staff on the location and expected arrival time of delivery trucks in real time. The speaker can also keep track of ongoing promotion details that frequently change.

Considering convenience stores usually operate around the clock and different part-time workers cover the long hours, SK said the speaker could serve as a useful resource for employees.

The speaker will be placed beside the counter at 100 convenience stores to start. SK Telecom and CU plan to gradually increase the number of shops that use Nugu.

SK Telecom also plans introduce Nugu at the Vista Walkerhill Seoul Hotel in eastern Seoul. Hotel customers will be able to control lighting, curtains and room temperature using Nugu.

SK Telecom is currently looking for more opportunities for Nugu in office settings. It plans to release an open platform for the AI assistant by the second half of the year so that developers in various industries can upgrade and customize the assistant for their businesses.

“We expect Nugu working for CU will become a stepping stone for AI assistants entering a variety of business-to-business markets,” said Lee Sang-ho, the head of the service platform business division at SK Telecom.

Other carriers are also attempting get their AI speakers out of the house.

LG U+ starting deploying its AI speakers at its 2,000 retail shops in April. The speakers aid sales managers by telling them about the necessary documents to complete phone purchases and can also start small talk with customers. LG hopes the assistant is used widely at offices for customer service.

KT is focusing on hotels. The carrier deployed its GiGA Genie AI speakers at the Novotel Ambassador Seoul Dongdaemun Hotel in central Seoul, which opened on Tuesday. Customers can speak to the assistant to change room settings or ask for amenities from the hotel’s concierge. KT’s assistant for hotels currently only speaks Korean and English, but it is currently learning Chinese.

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