BARCELONA, SPAIN—Line is building its own voice-activated assistant that could help the popular Japanese messaging app compete directly with the likes of Amazon and Google.
Today, during the Mobile World Congress trade show, Line CEO Takeshi Idezawa outlined the company’s plans to move beyond smartphones into screenless technology. Working with Sony and LG, it’s building a speaker that could compete with voice-activated devices such as Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home.
Clova, Line’s assistant, is being co-developed with Naver Corp., the main internet portal for South Korea, and will be available as a smartphone app and a speaker called Wave sometime in early summer.
So what will Clova be able to do? Like Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistsant, it will be able to provide information about the weather and news, play music, and offer language translation. The company is also hoping it has the home-court advantage against Google when it comes to knowledge of Asia.
“AI is our most important project at Line and represents a paradigm shift as dramatic as the rise of the smartphone a decade ago,” Idezawa said in a statement. “The Clova platform allows Line’s existing services to interconnect, moving users post-touch, post-display, and even post-smart portal, into a new future. We are aiming to make Clova Asia’s leading cloud AI platform.”
Voice assistants have, over the past year, gained traction beyond tech circles and made their way into the mainstream. While Google’s Home device has only been on the market for a few months, Amazon’s Echo has already sold more than 5 million since debuting more than two years ago.
Line, which has 217 million active users around the world, has in recent months built out its messaging app offerings by creating chatbot tools for hailing taxis, mobile payments and streaming music.