SKT opens Nugu AI platform to developers

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SKT opens Nugu AI platform to developers


A participant at Nugu Conference 2018 held Wednesday at Grand InterContinental Seoul Parnas in Gangnam District, southern Seoul, tests Taptilo, a braille educating device that uses SK Telecom’s Nugu voice-activated artificial intelligence engine. [SK TELECOM]

SK Telecom opened its Nugu artificial intelligence (AI) platform to the public on Wednesday, offering third-party companies and developers access to the system’s expanding services.

The so-called Nugu Developers open platform is similar to Amazon’s Alexa Skills Kit, a collection of tools and code samples that enable developers to build new capabilities for the Alexa AI engine.

Korean convenience store chain CU and Vista Walkerhill Seoul Hotel have already demonstrated how the Nugu AI platform can be customized for their businesses using a beta version of the open platform released earlier this year.

For instance, Nugu voice assistants in CU stores can answer questions like when a delivery truck will arrive at a specific CU store to assist managers.

While about 36 services have been built into the Nugu assistant in the two years since its launch in September 2016, including music streaming and smart control of home appliances, the company said it will expand the speaker’s capabilities through wide collaboration with outside developers using the open platform.

“It’s the actual service delivery rather than the AI interface itself that makes a company’s AI business successful,” said Chang Yu-sung, head of the service platform business division at SK Telecom during a Nugu Conference held Wednesday in southern Seoul to launch Nugu Developers.

“We will make this open platform last to become a reliable partner for third parties,” Chang added. “There are many cases where large companies decide to suddenly close their platforms, but I know how big a damage that situation can cause to start-ups because I have experience working at start-ups.”

Before joining SK Telecom in July, Chang built his career at AI-related start-ups as well as Samsung Electronics and Wolfram Research, which makes answering engines for Apple’s Siri and Samsung Electronics’ Bixby.

“I think global players battle with a similar level of technology in terms of basic conversational features of AI,” Chang said. “But I think SK Telecom’s Nugu has a competitive edge because the mobile carrier is involved in a broad range of businesses.”

SK Telecom has a mobile network business and also operates a music streaming app. Its affiliated SK Broadband offers a internet-protocol TV service and the Oksusu video streaming app, while 11st offers an e-commerce service.

“When these services make synergy with SK Telecom’s AI engine, I think the Nugu AI assistant could become Korea’s top assistant,” Chang added.

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