TikTok is testing an in-app AI chatbot called ‘Tako’

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AI chatbots, such as ChatGPT, are all the rage, so it’s no surprise that TikTok is now testing its own AI chatbot as well. The bot, dubbed “Tako,” is undergoing limited testing in select markets, where it will appear on the right side of the TikTok interface, above the user’s profile and other buttons for likes, comments, and bookmarks. When tapped, users can ask Tako various questions about the video using natural language searches or discover new content by asking for recommendations.

For example, when viewing a video of King Charles’ coronation, Tako might suggest that users ask, “What is the significance of King Charles III’s coronation?”

Or, if users were looking for ideas for something to watch, they could ask Tako to suggest some videos on a particular topic, such as funny pet videos. The bot would respond with a list of results containing the name, author, and subject of the video, as well as links to suggested videos. From here you can click on a video’s thumbnail to jump to its content.

Image Credits: TikTok screenshot by Watchful.ai

The bot was discovered while being publicly tested by app intelligence company Watchful.ai, and TikTok confirmed that the tests are now live.

“Being at the forefront of innovation is core to building the TikTok experience, and we are always exploring new technologies that add value to our community,” a TikTok spokesperson told AapkaDost. “In selected markets, we are piloting new ways to enable 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 nurtures culture.”

While Watchful.ai says it found the AI ​​chatbot in tests on iOS devices in the US, TikTok says the current version of the bot is not currently public in the US, but is being tested in other global markets, including a early limited test in the Philippines.

We also understand that the bot will not appear on accounts belonging to minors.

Behind the scenes, TikTok uses an unknown third-party AI provider that TikTok has adapted to its needs. That adjustment does not include the use of internal AI technologies from TikTok or parent company ByteDance.

At first launch, TikTok advises users in a pop-up message that Tako is still considered “experimental” and that the feedback “may not be true or accurate” – a disclaimer that applies to all modern AI chatbots, including OpenAIs ChatGPT and Google’s AI, among others. TikTok also emphasizes that the chatbot should not be used for medical, legal or financial advice. (We understand that the wording in the image below may represent an earlier version of the bot rather than the current tests.)

Image Credits: TikTok screenshot by Watchful.ai

The disclosure also notes that all Tako conversations will be reviewed for security purposes and, vaguely, to “improve your experience.” This is unfortunately one of the complications associated with using modern AI chatbots. Because the technologies are so new, companies are choosing to capture and review customer interactions to help improve their bots. But from a privacy point of view, this means that the AI ​​conversations are not deleted after the chats have ended, which carries potential risks.

Some companies have circumvented these consumer privacy concerns by allowing users to manually delete their chats, as Snap has done with its My AI chatbot companion in the Snapchat app. TikTok takes a similar approach to Tako as it also allows users to delete their chats.

However, it is unclear whether the AI ​​chatbot records data associated with the user’s name or other personal information. The long-term data retention policy or privacy aspects of the chatbot also could not be determined at this time.

Image Credits: TikTok screenshot by Watchful.ai

The security risks posed by AI chatbots have led some companies to ban such bots at work, including Apple, which even restricts employees from using tools such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT or Microsoft-owned GitHub’s Copilot due to concerns about leaking confidential information. facts. Others that have recently issued similar bans include banks such as Bank of America, Citi, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan, as well as Walmart, Samsung and telecom giant Verizon.

Why consumers would want an AI chatbot in TikTok in the first place is another matter.

While most companies are experimenting with AI in one way or another, TikTok believes the chatbot can do more than just answer questions over a video. search box.

This could become a threat to Google if TikTok’s tests were successful and the chatbot rolled out publicly, as Google has already noted how Gen Z is turning to TikTok and Instagram as the first place they search for certain topics. Google will soon start rolling out a conversational experience in search, but if TikTok had its own in-app AI chatbot, that could encourage younger users to bypass Google altogether.

Update, 5/25/23, 9 a.m. ET: At the time of publishing, TikTok shared additional information about Tako on its Twitter account. We’ve updated with additional details where relevant.

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