May 25, 2023
TikTok is testing an AI chatbot named Tako
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TikTok is the latest app to jump on the generative artificial intelligence bandwagon.
The social networking service is testing out a chatbot named Tako, which can answer questions and have conversations with users of the app, according to screenshots seen by Bloomberg. When asked about the feature, a representative said it was trying “new ways to power search and discovery on TikTok” in select markets.
“We’re always exploring new technologies that add value to our community,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We look forward to learning from our community as we continue to create a safe place that entertains, inspires creativity and drives culture.”
TikTok follows tech peers such as Snap Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Google in developing chatbots and other generative AI tools — the buzziest technology to sweep the internet in recent years. The Tako test is currently available to a small number of employees, according to Daniel Buchuk, an analyst at Watchful, a company that tracks apps’ development testing for competitors.
TikTok, owned by China’s ByteDance Ltd., is making the push into AI at a contentious time. Policymakers in the U.S. and Europe are looking to crack down on the app, fearing that data could be used by the Chinese government. This month, Montana became the first U.S. state to approve a measure banning TikTok — legislation that faces legal challenges.
For now, Tako appears as a small ghost-like icon on the top right of the app’s screen. After tapping that icon, users are taken to an instant messenger, where they can ask questions. Buchuk told Bloomberg that Tako can also provide recommendations for content based on users’ interests and preferences.
“Tako is an experimental chatbot,” reads a screen on one of the screenshots shared with Bloomberg. “It can answer questions, and have conversations with you.”
Despite having an in-house AI team, any information users put into Tako is collected and shared with unnamed “third-party service providers in order to provide you with answers to your questions,” according to the feature’s privacy terms. Tako is only available to TikTok users over 18, Buchuk added.
Users can choose to delete their data, but are warned not to share any personal information with the chatbot. They’re also advised not to rely solely on the bot for its medical, legal or financial advice because “feedback from Tako is AI generated and may not be true or accurate.”
Overall, Tako will allow “TikTok to obtain ever more precise data to deliver personalized and highly targeted content to individual users,” Buchuk said, adding that it had “the potential to revolutionize how people use TikTok.”