NITI Aayog is developing Alexa-like device for vernacular users

NITI Aayog

India’s think tank NITI Aayog is developing a device akin to Amazon’s virtual assistant device Alexa for countrymen.

The idea is to have NLP-driven conversational bots in the future, reaching all corners of the country in multiple languages, said official aware of the development.

Yet to be named device will offer services such as voice interaction, music playback, to-do lists, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks and providing real-time information such as news, weather, traffic, and sports reports.

The device will aim to reach to regional users and be capable of handling queries in 18 languages.

NITI Aayog has also partnered with IIT Patna to develop a natural language processor (NLP) for commercial use. The premier engineering institute is doing market research for a suitable product. Around 14 more institutes would be participating in the development programme.

Director of IIT Patna, Pushpak Bhattacharyya talking about the impact said the technology would touch everything from e-commerce firms to educational institute which uses chatbots.

It has huge potential as business prospects for corporates. The project will be partly funded by the govt. It might be acquired by big corporates, Bhattacharya added without divulging any details.

At present, in virtual assistance segment Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s HomePod and Google’s Home are popular devices. All of them are globally available in English, German, French, Italian and Spanish but have very low penetration when it comes to having a reach in regional languages in India.

In India, the regional language users have grown at over 40 per cent in the last seven years. They are expected to continue growing and touch over 530 million in the next three years. Whereas, English is expected to reach only 199 million, by that period.

This is where NITI Aayog sees a huge opportunity for India’s own virtual assistant device available in local languages.

The development was reported by ET.

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