TikTok tests artificial intelligence chatbot called Tako

TikTok is the most recent application to join the wave of artificial intelligence.

The social networking service is testing a chatbot called 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 testing it said “new ways to power search and discovery on TikTok” in select markets.

“We are always exploring new technologies that add value to our community,” the speaker 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.”

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TikTok follows tech peers like Snap Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Google in developing chatbots and other generative AI tools, the most popular technology on the internet in recent years. Tako’s trial is currently available to a small number of employees, according to Daniel Buchuk, an analyst at Watchful, a company that tracks app development tests for competitors.

TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance Ltd., is making the move to AI at a controversial time. Authorities in the United States and Europe are seeking to crack down on the app, amid fears the Chinese government could use the data.

For now, Tako appears as a small ghostly icon at the top right of the app screen. After touching that icon, users are taken to an instant messenger, where they can ask questions. Buchuk told Bloomberg that Tako can also provide content recommendations based on users’ interests and preferences.

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“Tako is an experimental chatbot,” reads one of the screenshots shared with Bloomberg.. “He can answer questions and have conversations with you.”

Despite having an in-house AI team, any information users enter into Tako is collected and shared with anonymous “third-party service providers” to provide you with answers to your questions, per the feature’s privacy terms. Tako is only available to TikTok users over the age of 18, Buchuk added.

Users can choose to delete their data, but they are warned not to share any personal information with the chatbot. They are also advised not to rely solely on the bot for medical, legal, or financial advice because “Tako’s feedback is AI-generated and may not be true or accurate.”

Overall, Tako enabled “TikTok to obtain increasingly accurate data to deliver highly targeted and personalized content to individual users,” Buchuk said, adding that it had “the potential to revolutionize the way people use TikTok.”

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