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Niti Aayog, IIT developing Indian-language bot

A senior government official told ET that NITI Aayog has collaborated with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Patna, under director Pushpak Bhattacharyya to develop a natural language processor (NLP) for commercial use.

Last Updated: Dec 10, 2018, 11.56 PM IST
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This will open up a wide range of opportunities not just for users at the local level but holds vast business potential for corporates as well.
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New Delhi: An Indian avatar of Amazon Alexa or Google Home could soon be interacting with users in 18 languages. NITI Aayog is collaborating with academia and private players to develop a voice interface that can be used by India’s billion-plus population to address day-to-day issues related to agriculture, skills, health or education. Many ecommerce companies have shown interest in such a product.

Like Alexa, it will be a virtual assistant device capable of voice interaction, music playback, to-do lists, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks and providing real-time information such as news, weather, traffic and sports reports. Currently, such devices interact and communicate mostly in languages such as English, German, French, Italian and Spanish.

A senior government official told ET that NITI Aayog has collaborated with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Patna, under director Pushpak Bhattacharyya to develop a natural language processor (NLP) for commercial use. His team will conduct market research for the government to identify modifications needed in the existing technology to make it suitable for Indian users in local languages.

Bhattacharyya confirmed that his team and 14 other institutes are working together in the Technology Development in Indian Languages (TDIL) project commissioned by the ministry of information technology.

“We are creating a conceptual dictionary, a first of its kind for India. This dictionary would help decipher correct meaning of words and help in translation, dialogue generation, question-answering and information retrieval in 18 Indian languages,” Bhattacharyya told ET. “This technology would impact all ecommerce companies, education institutes, any company — for example, airlines — that uses chatbots as now they can interact in multiple languages.”

According to Bhattacharya, many companies including large ecommerce firms are in talks to acquire the solution. He declined to provide details.

“The idea is to have NLP-driven conversational bots in the future, reaching all corners of India and its diverse languages to help India’s vast population to benefit from the technology,” said the official cited above.

The government plans to partly fund the project to promote its commercial production, he said. This will open up a wide range of opportunities not just for users at the local level but holds vast business potential for corporates as well.

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