Social media platform TikTok has announced the development of a chatbot called “Tako” that aims to engage users in conversations about short videos and assist them in discovering content. Currently, in its early stages, TikTok is conducting tests with a select group of users in the Philippines. This move comes after OpenAI, supported by Microsoft, introduced the ChatGPT chatbot, which has been recognized for its natural interaction capabilities. Snap Inc., a rival of TikTok, has also embraced generative artificial intelligence (AI) with its own chatbot called “My AI,” powered by ChatGPT technology.

What made TikTok design Tako?

TikTok is testing its own AI chatbot called Tako and you have to love that name

Tako has been designed by TikTok to enhance users’ exploration of entertaining and inspiring content within the app. Reports from Israeli-based app intelligence firm Watchful Technologies revealed that Tako has been observed in certain versions of the TikTok app on Apple devices, featuring as a ghost-shaped icon on the interface. Users can interact with Tako by tapping on the icon while watching videos, engaging in text-based conversations, and seeking assistance in discovering relevant content.

In April, news outlets in the United States reported on TikTok’s experimentation with a generative AI tool for creating avatars. Although the Chinese parent company ByteDance is reportedly working on a large-scale AI model, its Chinese counterpart, Douyin, currently does not offer AI chatbot features. Last month, TikTok submitted a trademark application for “TikTok Tako” related to computer software for generating human speech and text, as disclosed in a filing with the U.S. Patent and trademark office.

When questioned about Tako, a TikTok spokesperson expressed the platform’s ongoing exploration of new technologies. The spokesperson stated that TikTok is testing novel methods for search and discovery in select markets, aiming to create a safe and culturally rich environment that entertains and fosters creativity. However, the spokesperson did not provide a specific reason for choosing the Philippines as a testing ground. Watchful researcher Daniel Buchuk shared that his team discovered references to Tako in certain versions of the TikTok app, including a test version on an iOS device in the United States. Watchful employs computer vision and data analysis to identify and replicate app changes but has been unable to determine the specific markets where TikTok is conducting its tests.

What makes Tako different from ChatGPT?

In contrast to ChatGPT, which functions as a versatile chatbot, Tako appears to serve more as a navigation assistant focused on encouraging users to watch more videos. Buchuk explained that while Tako can provide answers to factual questions like the date of King Charles’ coronation, it also recommends relevant TikTok videos. Additionally, Watchful demonstrated that when users ask Tako questions such as “How can we teach respect to children,” the chatbot offers a summary of tips from TikTok users while suggesting related videos.

TikTok has emphasized that Tako is an experimental chatbot, and therefore its responses may be inaccurate. The company will review conversations with Tako for safety purposes and advises users not to share private information with the chatbot.

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