On Thursday, the social networking platform TikTok said that it is in the early stages of exploring a chatbot called “Tako”. Tako will be displayed on the right side of the TikTok interface, above the user’s profile and other buttons for likes, comments, and bookmarks. When pressed, users can utilize natural language questions to ask Tako a variety of questions about the video or suggest recommendations for fresh content, and Tako is now testing the app with a select few users in the Philippines.

The chatbot ChatGPT, which OpenAI and Microsoft Corp. developed last year, arguably offers the most natural interaction to date. That triggered a rush to develop features based on revolutionary generative artificial intelligence (AI), with TikTok rival Snap Inc. leading the race with its “My AI” feature, which uses ChatGPT technology.

TikTok said Tako is designed to help users discover “entertaining and inspiring content” on the app.

An Israeli app intelligence company called Watchful Technologies earlier on Thursday reported to have found Tako on various TikTok app versions for Apple Inc. mobile devices.

Videos and screenshots Users may tap the chatbot while watching videos to have text-based conversations or get help finding content, according to Watchful’s screenshots supplied by Reuters. The chatbot is prominently displayed on TikTok’s interface as a ghost-shaped icon.

U.S. media outlets reported in April that TikTok was evaluating a generative AI tool that would let users create avatars. Chinese media stated that ByteDance, a company based in China, is developing a sizable AI model but that its Chinese equivalent of TikTok, Douyin, does not yet have AI chatbot features.

Disclosure filed with the U.S. patent and trademark office last month showed TikTok had submitted a trademark application for “TikTok Tako” in categories including “computer software for the artificial production of human speech and text”.

When asked about Tako, the spokesperson for TikTok stated the social media platform was always experimenting with new technology.

“In select markets, we’re testing new ways to power search and discovery on TikTok, and we look forward to learning from our community as we continue to create a safe place that entertains, inspires creativity, and drives culture,” the spokesperson said.

The reason the Philippines was selected was not disclosed by the company in question.

As earlier this month, watchful researcher Daniel Buchuk said that his team started finding references to Tako on several TikTok app versions, including on a test version on an iOS device in the United States.

Watchful detects and emulates app changes using data analysis and computer vision. It monitors an eye on devices around the world but was unable to establish which markets TikTok was testing in.

Buchuk said Tako feels more like a navigation assistant with a focus on encouraging users to watch more videos as opposed to ChatGPT, which is positioned as an all-purpose chatbot.

“So if you’re asking ‘When was King Charles’ coronation?’ Tako will tell you the answer, but then you’ll also see relevant TikTok videos,” he said.

When a user asks Tako a question like, “How can we teach respect to children?” the chatbot responds by summarising suggestions from TikTok users while also recommending similar videos, according to another presentation by Watchful.

The disclaimer on TikTok states that Tako is an experimental chatbot and that its responses might not be accurate. It told users not to share private data with it and stated that it will monitor conversations with Tako for safety purposes.


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