Instant messenger Line working on a virtual assistant to topple Alexa

The company's new Clova app and smart speaker will debut this summer.

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Line

You may not have heard of it, but Line is one of the world's biggest messaging apps. Now the Japanese company is getting into the AI game.

Line is teaming up with parent-company Naver, a South Korean search giant, to create an artificial intelligence platform called Clova. The company announced its plans at the Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona.

Clova, named after an abbreviation of "Cloud Virtual Assistant", will first launch with its own app and an Amazon Alexa-like smart speaker called Wave. The company says the platform will pack voice and facial recognition, as well as "understand complicated questions and make sophisticated recommendations."

It'll hit Japan and South Korea this summer, Line says, and expand internationally afterwards, though no timeline has been specified. Clova won't just be in Line products though, with Sony Mobile on Clova-integrated products, according to Line.

Developed in the wake of 2011's disastrous Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, Line is Japan's biggest messaging app and has over 215 million active users around the world (and over 600 million registered). The company hopes to fill a void created by Amazon's Alexa, which has popularised speaker-based personal assistants but isn't yet widely available around the world.

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