South Korea companies get in on AI translation race

SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus are jumping into the competition of artificial intelligence (AI)-powered translation services as they are increasingly applying the feature to AI speakers and mobile routers.

AI-powered translation services, offered by mobile carriers, have come mostly through partnerships with IT companies such as Google and Naver.

But telecom firms are also expected to move to develop their own translation models to provide users with more advanced services.

On Tuesday, KT rolled out a new device, dubbed Egg Talk, equipped with Naver’s AI-based translation service, Papago.

The device offers translation services for 13 different languages including English, Japanese and Chinese.

The device also provides users with handy phrases that can be used at airports, hotels and tourist sites.

Egg Talk is equipped with a 2.4-inch LCD touch screen, enabling users to check the results of the translation as well as the data usage.

KT, the nation’s largest broadband service provider and second-largest mobile carrier, said the device can also function as a Wi-Fi router that switches LTE signals to Wi-Fi. Users can use Wi-Fi by connecting the device to their smartphones or laptops.

“We are expanding the lineup of new devices in order to meet the rapidly changing needs of customers,” said On Nam-seok who heads the emerging device business unit at KT. “We will also offer quality after-sales services.”

KT also offers its own translation service at the AI-powered Novotel Ambassador Hotel and Residence built at the site of its former Euljiro office in Jung-gu, central Seoul.

SK Telecom, the nation’s top mobile carrier, began offering translation services through its NUGU AI speaker, Monday.

In partnership with Hancom Group, the telecom company applied Hancom’s translation system Genie Talk to the NUGU speaker.

English-Korean translation is now available, the firm said, noting that Chinese and Japanese will be added within the year.

SK Telecom and Hancom Group signed a business agreement in October last year. The two companies will continue to expand their cooperation to develop more AI-based services.

Hancom Group has been jointly developing AI-powerd translation technologies with the government-funded Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute.

Meanwhile, LG Uplus offers Naver’s translation service Papago through its AI smart home system.

The mobile carrier has also installed Google’s AI voice assistant, dubbed the Google Assistant, in the U+tv UHD set-top box. Among the services available, Google Translation offers 21 languages including English, Japanese and Spanish, and shows translation results on a TV screen.

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