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TikTok Testing In-App AI Chatbot Named “Tako'”

The surge in popularity of AI chatbots, such as ChatGPT, has been difficult to ignore. So, it comes as no surprise that TikTok is following suit by testing its own in-app AI chatbot, “Tako.” Currently, this feature is being tested in specific markets, appearing on the right side of the TikTok interface, just above the user profile and other options such as likes, comments, and bookmarks.

Once Tako is accessed, users can ask various questions about the video they are watching through natural language queries or seek out new content by asking for suggestions. For example, while viewing a video of King Charles’ coronation, Tako might prompt users to ask, “What is the significance of King Charles III’s coronation?” Additionally, Tako can recommend videos based on user preferences, like funny pet videos, providing a list of results with details such as the video’s title, creator, and subject matter, along with links to the suggested videos.

App intelligence firm Watchful.ai unearthed this experimental feature, and TikTok subsequently confirmed the live tests. As a spokesperson from TikTok reported to TechCrunch, “Being at the forefront of innovation is core to building the TikTok experience, and we’re always exploring new technologies that add value to our community.”

 

screenshot by Watchful.ai

Despite the discovery of Tako’s test version on iOS devices in the U.S. by Watchful.ai, TikTok asserts that the bot is not currently publicly accessible in the U.S. Instead, it’s being tested in other worldwide markets, with an early limited trial taking place in the Philippines.

TikTok has stated that all interactions with Tako will be reviewed to ensure user safety and to optimize user experience. Like any new technology, AI chatbots come with their share of complications, and privacy remains a prominent concern. Several companies, including TikTok, have addressed this issue by allowing users to manually delete their chats.

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However, questions about data logging and user privacy remain unanswered. Currently, it’s unclear whether Tako is logging data associated with user’s names or other personal information, and the details of long-term data retention policies are also indeterminate. 

This lack of transparency has led some companies, including industry giants like Apple, to prohibit the use of AI chatbots due to concerns over confidential data leaks. Others implementing similar restrictions include banks and corporations like Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan, Walmart, Samsung, and Verizon. 

Yet the fundamental question remains: Why do users need an AI chatbot within TikTok?

screenshot by Watchful.ai

While AI experimentation is common across tech companies, TikTok hopes that its chatbot can not only answer video-related queries but also become an alternative way for users to explore content on the platform. This development could be a potential game-changer, threatening Google’s dominance, particularly given the shift in Gen Z’s online behavior, who are increasingly turning to TikTok and Instagram for information on specific subjects.

As Google prepares to launch a conversational experience in search, a successful Tako could incentivize younger users to circumvent Google altogether. The rise of in-app AI chatbots such as Tako could well signal a significant shift in the way users interact with content on the internet.

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