Yukai and Seaman to Co-develop Robotic Language for Natural, Seamless Human-Bot ‘Conversations’

2019/7/30 News

The project aims to make smart speakers’ singular responses a thing of the past.

TOKYO (July 30, 2019) – Yukai Engineering Inc., a Tokyo-based robotics startup known for creating robots that bring joy to life, and Seaman Artificial Intelligence Research Center of Tokyo have announced their partnership to develop a conversation engine for Yukai’s new-generation communication robot, BOCCO emo. The partnership brings together Yukai’s robotics expertise and Seaman’s deep know-how in building conversation algorithms that enable robots to “read between the lines” in interacting with users, empathize with them and generate natural responses. BOCCO emo, which will be equipped with the new conversation-generating engine, is expected to be able to carry on rich, emotive and continuous dialogues with users.

Yukai and Seaman will use Ogilby, an autonomous conversation engine being developed by Seaman, as the base for BOCCO emo’s conversation generator. Separately from the BOCCO emo project, Seaman will further develop Ogilby as a turnkey solution for various interface devices, with plans to release it in 2020. Under the partnership agreement, Yukai will serve as the distributor of Ogilby.

BOCCO emo is a new generation model of Yukai Engineering’s flagship family communication robot, BOCCO. Planned for a market release in the spring of 2020, BOCCO emo blushes, shakes its head and makes cute sounds in response to the emotional contents of messages exchanged via the device. In partnership with Seaman, Yukai hopes to bring BOCCO emo’s responsiveness to new heights previously unseen in the market.

“We believe our new conversation engine will completely change consumers’ expectations for what smart speakers can do. Unlike Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant that respond to their users one question at a time, BOCCO will be able to carry on a seamless conversation with users in casual and natural language,” Yukai Engineering CEO Shunsuke Aoki said.

“We are excited about this partnership, which enables us to build on our years of experience in developing algorithms that recognize subtle differences in the tones of users’ voices and generate appropriate responses. We cannot wait to see consumers enjoying meaningful conversations with their robots,” Seaman Artificial Intelligence Research Center CEO Yutaka Saito said.


Empathetic Conversation Engine that Learns and Grows


Distribution of Ogilby
In 2017, Seaman Artificial Intelligence Research Center began working on the development of Ogilby, an autonomous conversation engine. The company plans to design it as a turnkey solution for various interface devices. Yukai Engineering will take advantage of its marketing expertise and network to distribute Ogilby, which is scheduled for a market release in 2020.

About BOCCO and BOCCO emo
Launched at CES 2015, the original BOCCO has enjoyed commercial success in Japan as an everyday communication tool for families to exchange voice/text messages and remotely take care of their loved ones, including seniors. Capable of connecting to both sensors and the Internet, BOCCO enables users to monitor and control their home environment.
BOCCO emo moves its head and says hello when sensing the user nearby. It also lights up its eyes, shakes its antenna and makes cute sounds in response to emotional words – such as “happy” and “tired,” plus emojis – in outgoing/incoming text messages, and when called by its nickname the user has given to their robot.

About Seaman Artificial Intelligence Research Center
Seaman Artificial Intelligence Research Center is a Tokyo-based computer software and AI development company. Founded in 2017 solely with private funding, it aims to develop robotic conversation generators for the Japanese language. While the conventional smart speakers can provide human-like responses, it is a mere mimicry and cannot carry a contextualized conversation. As the developer of “Seaman,” a virtual pet video game that’s sold 2 million copies worldwide, Seaman has the know-how to develop an engine that can generate a meaningful conversation. Seaman strives to apply the knowledge gained through its experience in the entertainment field to build an autonomous conversation engine for non-entertainment uses, such as voice-command devices, and make it available through licensing. The company hopes to secure additional funding to release bundle services to share the technology with partnering businesses in 2020.
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