[ITU 2017] Meet Musio, the AI social robot that understands humans

By Sohn Ji-young
  • Published : Sept 28, 2017 - 17:11
  • Updated : Sept 28, 2017 - 17:14
BUSAN — Artificial intelligence has recently begun to step closer into our lives — primarily in the form of voice-activated smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home or digital assistant software built into smartphones like Apple’s Siri or Samsung’s Bixby.

These devices all claim to be the so-called “chatbots,” but their ability to converse mostly stops at providing answers to one-ended inquiries or carrying out specific tasks commanded by humans.

Seeking to create a more personable AI, a tech startup hailing from South Korea has developed an artificially intelligent “social robot” named Musio capable of interacting with people like a live companion.

AI social bot Musio (AKA LLC)

Musio — featuring emotive eyes and a heart on built-in touchscreens — is a standing robot powered by an AI engine equipped with natural language processing and deep learning technology. It is able to discern particular users and recognizes objects in its view.

Trained on a rich and interactive content database, the bot can do everything from engaging in small talk to holding continuous conversations in a personable manner, all the while shaping its responses in line with what it remembers from past conversations.

The social robot was developed by AKA LLC, a Korean AI tech startup based in the US. It was established in 2009 by Raymond Jung, a co-founder of Korea’s successful English test prep firm Hackers Education Group.

“Unlike other voice-activated devices, Musio was developed as a personable robot that people can interact with like a friend,” Rammi Nam, chief AI engine developer at AKA Intelligence, which builds the AI engine Muse on which Musio operates, told The Korea Herald in an interview at the ITU Telecom World 2017 conference in Busan. The startup had been invited to partake in panel discussions on AI and its impact on diverse industries.

According to Nam, Musio possesses “emotions” of its own which change according to the type of data it accumulates. For example, if you’ve told Musio that you think dogs are scary before, the bot will recall that fact during a later conversation on dogs, and make a sad face, he said.

Rammi Nam, chief AI engine developer at Korean tech startup AKA Intelligence (Courtesy of ITU photographer R. Farrell)

Musio has already made its commercial debut in Japan, in the form of a language tutor bot that helps children learn English. It is currently sold at around 98,000 yen ($900) through SoftBank’s marketplace, Amazon Japan and a handful of offline retailers.

As of now, AKA has reached an agreement with Japan’s regional education committee on deploying Musio to primary and secondary schools across the nation. It expects new business opportunities will emerge after the Japanese government proceeds with plans to make English language education mandatory in all primary schools.

“We expect Musio can give young students who are learning English an opportunity to practice the language at home, without being judged or feeling shy,” Nam said. “It can also make up for the shortage of English teachers in public schools in Asia.”

Looking ahead, AKA is looking to make its proprietary AI engines and their context-aware deep learning algorithms available to new industries beyond education. That includes sectors like healthcare for the elderly and technology built into connected cars, it said.

By Sohn Ji-young (