Japan’s Vinclu, holographic virtual assistant developer, acquired by Line


See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Vinclu, the Japanese startup developing a holographic virtual assistant called Gatebox, has announced that it will start co-developing solutions using Clova, the artificial intelligence (AI) platform developed by Japanese messaging company Line and its Korean parent company Naver. Coinciding with this, Line unveiled that it will take a major stake in Vinclu although financial details have not been disclosed.

Upon this acquisition, Jun Masuda, CSMO (Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer) of Line, joined the management board of Vinclu on March 1st while Primal Capital’s Hiroshi Sasaki will retain the startup’s strategic advisor position.

The Clova AI platform was just unveiled at Mobile World Congress 2017, underway now in Barcelona. Aiming to catch up with competitors like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, the Naver and Line consortium are planning to introduce AI-enabled solutions in Japan and Korea this summer, with products like the Clova app and the Wave smart speaker.

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The Clova platform consists of Clova Brain and Clova Interface, each of which is respectively relevant to the eyes/mouth and the ears of humans. While a hardware device like the Wave smart speaker secures interfaces that allow the platform to communicate with users, Vinclu’s Gatebox is considered to be defined in that layer.

According to the statement from Line, the company signed a partnership with Sony Mobile Communications in the smart product development and with Takara Tomy (TSE:7867) in the smart toy development, in addition to one with Vinclu in the home robot development. Going forward Vinclu will leverage the Clova platform to develop various applications such
as news updates and calendar-based content offerings, voice command-based home control and Audiobook playback.

Translated by Masaru Ikeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy