TikTok Confirms Testing AI Chatbot ‘Tako’ in the Philippines

TikTok testing chatbot
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TikTok testing chatbot
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Photo Credit: TikTok screenshot from Watchful.ai

TikTok confirms testing its own AI chatbot, ‘Tako,’ currently in limited testing with select users in the Philippines.

Artificially intelligent chatbots like ChatGPT are en vogue right now, so it’s no surprise when another tech company unveils its latest offering. TikTok has confirmed that it’s in the early stages of testing its own AI chatbot, called “Tako.” 

The bot is in limited testing in select markets, including the Philippines. TikTok says the current version of the bot has yet to be publicly available in the U.S., but news about the bot was initially uncovered in public tests on iOS devices in the U.S. by Watchful.ai.

Tako appears on the right-hand side of the TikTok interface, above the user profile and other buttons — prominently displayed for users with access, which indicates that TikTok wants you to notice and use the bot and make it an integral part of the TikTok experience. When tapped, users can ask Tako questions about the current video or discover new content by asking for recommendations.

“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,” said a TikTok spokesperson in a statement to TechCrunch. “In select markets, we’re testing new ways to power 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 drives culture.”

Tako is also not to appear on minors’ accounts — likely to mitigate backlash over the fact that TikTok discloses it will review all conversation logs with the bot for safety purposes and “to enhance your experience.” Naturally, due to how new these technologies are, it’s not unusual for companies to log customer interactions and review them to help improve bots — and presumably to ensure nothing criminal occurs. 

TikTok allows users to delete their chats with the bot manually, but it’s unknown if this is merely a placating feature and if the conversations are still logged for access company-side. Further, it needs to be clarified if the AI platform used to create Tako, developed by a third-party company and licensed to TikTok, logs data associated with the user’s name or any other personal information. Any long-term data retention policies or privacy aspects of the project have yet to be revealed.

“Behind the scenes, TikTok is leveraging an unknown third-party AI provider that TikTok has customized for its needs,” explains TechCrunch. “That modification does not include the use of any in-house AI technologies from TikTok or parent company ByteDance.”

While most tech companies are experimenting with AI in some form, TikTok’s chatbot aims to do more than answer questions about a video, leading to new ways for users to surface additional content in the app. Given how Gen Z are turning more to TikTok as the first place they search for information, a public roll-out of TikTok’s chatbot could start eating Google’s lunch by encouraging younger users not to use the search engine.