#Power of Businesses l 2021-10-18
Now it’s time to take a look at a Korean business bringing about changes in the global economy with some new ideas.
Today, we’re going to introduce you to O2O, which specializes in artificial intelligence or AI-based conversational solutions. Let’s hear from company CEO Ahn Sung-min.
O2O develops apps that allow users to get information through AI-driven voice-user interfaces and relevant AI speech models. The company was established in August 2017. It obtained the intellectual property management certification. The company is proud of generating decent jobs for young people. It was actually named among the top companies for job creation two years ago. Last year, it attracted investment worth about 850-thousand US dollars from the Korea Credit Guarantee Fund.
Before the company was set up, key members of the company, including Ahn, worked on set-top boxes and an AI speaker project. A set top box is a hardware device that allows users to exchange information interactively through television and to enjoy movies and games anytime they choose. Previously, users had to enter texts with a traditional remote control in order to find content in the set top box. But voice recognition technology made this inconvenient procedure easier and simpler.
The members were sure of the potential of AI-powered voice solutions and founded O2O, a provider of AI conversational solutions. To better understand what they are, you may think of AI assistants like Jarvis in the Iron Man movie series and R2-D2 in the Star Wars films. It is common to find these solutions in daily life. Refrigerators and washing machines can be managed using voice commands, and people can use voice recognition control to make phone calls, search words and send messages.
O2O provides a variety of cloud-based voice solutions that support languages of 44 different countries.
The cloud-based solutions enable users to receive services without having to download apps, while upgrading all sorts of information in real time. AI voice apps are still unfamiliar in South Korea, but they are widely used overseas. In China, for example, many simply read out messages without inputting texts. Voice recognition solutions are also in wide use in Southeast Asian countries including Indonesia and Thailand, so our solutions are well received overseas.
Talking with a solution, not a human, requires countless conversational databases. O2O developed an automatic question-answer system using machine reading comprehension technology. The machine learns particular texts, understands questions and answers them. O2O’s solutions are being used in various areas.
Users will find our solutions very helpful when searching information they need. For example, they can find information about accessible toilets or public restrooms nearby without having to download particular apps and enter texts. The solutions may provide information about regional festivals, so they can also be used in tourism. We’ve expanded this business in Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore.
Last year, the company unveiled a voice solution designed to support non-face-to-face election campaigns. Before the general elections for the 21st National Assembly in April 2020, it was difficult for candidates and voters to meet directly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Candidates found it hard to promote themselves, while it was not easy for voters to obtain election information.
O2O’s conversational solution for election campaigns definitely stood out in that situation. When users asked candidates questions about their career, pledges and policies through smartphones, the candidates answered the questions in their own voices. The voice solution enabled those who found it difficult to enter texts themselves, including the visually impaired, to gain information easily. This solution is expected to be widely used for local elections next year. In local elections, where governors, mayors and municipal legislatures are elected, there are too many candidates and election pledges. In a flood of information, voters might be confused about who they should choose. Thanks to O2O’s solution, they can easily get information they want.
The company has made remarkable achievement since its establishment, with its solutions used in various sectors of society.
We’ve received a number of awards. We were selected as one of the best companies for job creation and as one of small-and mid-sized firms nurturing talented workforce. We’ve also signed a nondisclosure agreement with Google, as we create Google applications. Although we’re a small company, we carried out some project in collaboration with a leading mobile carrier in Korea. We’re very proud that we’ve created promising jobs for young people over the last four years. We’ve also hired foreign workers for our overseas business. As a Korean startup, we have produced significant results abroad.
O2O has recently developed a gaming voice solution for English learners. In an environment where it is difficult to offer face-to-face classes in school, the company plans on developing voice assistant learning solutions so they can be used in the field of edutainment. Simply put, an AI asks questions in place of a teacher. The solutions are expected to prevent a learning gap among students from widening in the non-face-to-face environment.
The company is enthusiastic about exploring foreign markets. Starting from Southeast Asian countries including Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, it plans on expanding its business to North America and Europe.
Our goal is to help people feel happier and make their lives more convenient, though only in a small way. We hope to change people’s lives in a positive way through innovation. Basically, a voice-user interface was developed for the purpose of helping out those who find it difficult to input texts, including older people. We seek to promote social value. We believe it’s our social responsibility to develop services for disadvantaged groups in society and cultivate many young, competent workers.
Technological development sometimes marginalizes vulnerable groups. The expansion of unmanned digital kiosks in the pandemic has caused trouble for many older people who are not familiar with digital equipment, as they find it difficult even to order a cup of coffee and pay for it. Even with the unfamiliar, cold technology, some companies try to warmly embrace the socially weak. O2O is creating a world where anyone can enjoy convenient technology without difficulty.