[Herald Interview] SK Telecom to open AI platform in June

By Shin Ji-hye
  • Published : Mar 20, 2017 - 14:42
  • Updated : Mar 20, 2017 - 14:42
SK Telecom’s research and development head said the company plans to open its artificial intelligence platform in June to solidify its lead in the smart home appliances market.

“We plan to open the application program interface of NUGU’s AI platform for third-party developers at the end of June. We will make it an open platform like Amazon’s Alexa,” Choi Jin-sung, SKT’s head of corporate research and development, said in an interview with The Korea Herald.

Launched in September, NUGU is SKT’s voice-enabled speaker that is powered by the company’s own AI platform. The company plans to open the technology to developers so they can build their own voice command devices.

This move takes a cue from what Amazon did for its personal assistant Alexa in 2016. Since the American tech firm has made Alexa open to developers, it has been integrated into more than 7,000 devices.

“When we open the AI platform, Korean tech firms like Samsung and LG can use this technology for their smart appliances,” Choi said.

Currently, Samsung and LG are developing smart appliances based on their own AI platforms or with exclusive partners, which are only integrated with their own products and not compatible with products made by other brands.

“In the end, electronics makers will use additional AI platforms made by a company like us that is in a neutral position,” he said, adding that consumers will want their appliances connected regardless of different company brands.

Choi Jin-sung, SKT’s head of corporate research and development (SK Telecom)

Alongside home appliances, the AI platform can also be used for autonomous driving technologies both in the manufacturing process or aftermarket, the R&D chief said.

“The AI technology can be integrated with an in-car modem or a small portable device connected via Bluetooth for the voice communication between a car and driver,” Choi said, adding the company will talk with automakers once the AI platform is open.

Currently, global automakers are offering their new cars with voice-activated infotainment or navigation system, with Hyundai Motor also slated to unveil one within this year.

As for the global launch of SKT’s AI platform and NUGU -- which are only capable of understanding Korean now -- he was rather cautious, saying the technologies were originally made only for Korea.

“The global launch of the AI platform doesn’t seem easy because AI technology is mainly based on knowledge and content services. But, we may consider targeting some Asian countries, including Japan, China and Southeast Asian countries sharing similar cultural aspects in the future,” he said.

The R&D head said when the company is ready for the overseas launch of its AI platform and NUGU, it will partner with IBM’s Watson for their multi-language services. IBM’s Watson is an AI system capable of answering questions posed in natural language.

During this year’s World Mobile Congress held in Barcelona, Spain, SKT demonstrated the voice-command speaker NUGU in English in partnership with Watson via SK C&C’s Al platform Aibril. 

By Shin Ji-hye (