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Line is developing a digital assistant to take on Alexa

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It’ll go in a smart speaker, an app, and a face... thing

The company behind the hit messaging app Line is trying to expand in a big way by developing an Alexa-like virtual assistant, called Clova.

Details are pretty slim right now, but Line says that it intends for the assistant to work inside of apps and hardware, built both by itself and other companies. It’s promising all the basics — the ability to check the weather, listen to news, order products, update your calendar — and some surprisingly advanced features, too, like facial recognition and the ability to answer “complicated questions.”

But none of this is being demoed right now, so we’ll have to wait until Line shows something to see if any of it actually works. That’s supposed to happen “in early summer.”

The first two products to support Clova — an abbreviation of “cloud virtual assistant” — will be a dedicated Clova app and a smart speaker called Wave. There are no details on the Clova app yet, so it’s not clear how it’ll work. But Wave sounds very much like Line’s take on the Echo, Amazon’s hit speaker with Alexa.

Line also presented a photo of another device, called Clova Smart Display Face, without offering any details on how it’ll work. It seems to have some sort of face.

Though Clova will only be open to first-party products at first, Line says it’s in talks with Sony and LG to eventually build the assistant into their own devices. The Financial Times says that could include an ear piece.

Clova is being built in conjunction with Line’s parent company, the Korean search company Naver. Together, the companies say that they hope Clova can become the dominant assistant service throughout Asia; in particular, they’re focusing on Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, and Taiwan — areas where their services are already popular. Clova is supposed to support multiple languages, though Line didn’t specify which ones.

“AI is our most important project at Line and represents a paradigm shift as dramatic as the rise of the smartphone a decade ago,” Line CEO Takeshi Idezawa says in a statement. He goes on to say that, “We are aiming to make Clova Asia’s leading cloud AI platform.”

In addition to announcing the development of Clova, Line and Naver are announcing that they’ve purchased a majority stake in Vinclu, the company behind this anime-hologram-assistant-machine-thing: