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Busuu plugs into ‘intelligent assistants’

Online and mobile language learning provider Busuu has partnered with Amazon and Google to provide an education bot for the companies’ respective intelligent personal assistant interfaces, Alexa and Google Assistant.

Online and mobile language learning developer Busuu has created a bot for smart speakers. Photo: BusuuOnline and mobile language learning developer Busuu has created a bot for smart speakers. Photo: Busuu

"We see a lot of potential going forward with voice user interfaces... we want to make sure we integrated with all these players"

The Busuu Quiz Bot, which was launched on Alexa in December last year, sees the company further extending its product line outside of the traditional language learning model.

“We started initially as a website, and very early on launched mobile apps, and over the last three or four years, it became pretty clear that mobile will be the predominant platform for us,” Busuu CEO Bernhard Niesner said.

Both the Alexa and the Google Assistant are described as intelligent personal assistants, which allow users to operate digitals systems in their home or elsewhere via voice control and the Internet of Things.

“We’re probably still a few years away from [having an actual conversation with the bot]”

Niesner, who also co-founded Busuu, added that because of a strong working relationship with Google, they were offered the opportunity to become the platform’s only educational launch partner, which then opened the door for additional collaborations with Microsoft, Facebook, Skype and most recently Amazon.

“I wouldn’t say it is necessarily a strategic shift… away from mobile apps or desktop, but we want to make sure we’re part of these very innovative platforms that are coming out,” he told The PIE News.

“We see a lot of potential going forward with voice user interfaces, it’s still at the very beginning but we want to make sure we integrated with all these players.”

Niesner added that by partnering with emerging technology creators, Busuu aimed to increase its market awareness.

“Alexa had tremendous success in reach, same with Google Home. We’re seeing the beginning of the distribution of those devices, so, therefore, we’re reaching new target groups,” he said.

“Households in the US might get it, and they’re now figuring out what they can actually do with that, besides maybe ordering a pizza or getting a news update.”

Currently, the quiz bot only asks true or false questions from the platform’s pre-existing online and mobile repertoire for Spanish, French and German learners, and Niesner said that the bot was only intended to provide an additional opportunity to practice a language while undertaking other household tasks.

“We’re seeing the beginning of the distribution of those devices, so, therefore, we’re reaching new target groups”

“This is really much more of an extension. You won’t become fluent in Spanish by using the Alexa bot as of today,” he said.

While an extension of other language learning processes, he added that eventually, the aim was for learners to have a conversation with Alexa in a language.

“We’re probably still a few years away from [having an actual conversation with the bot]. Even though it’s probably the most advanced AI, [Alexa and Google Home are] still relatively basic and there’s still a lot of issues with not understanding correctly and missing the entire context,” he said.

Language learning apps were featured in last year’s PIE Review. You can read an abridged version here.

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