Thursday, October 26, 2017

Voice commands to activate Korean smart home speakers (Korean versions of "Hey Siri")

Korea is becoming obsessed with smart speakers. Of course there is Amazon's Alexa and Google Home in the US, but Korea already has its own large domestic smart speaker market. That got me thinking: iPhone users say "Hey Siri" and I say "OK Google" to my phone. What do Koreans say to their smart speakers?

Activating Naver Wave with "Sallyya!". Image: Naver

The best word I could find to describe this trigger phrase is 호출 단어 (call/summon word). Each of the major smart speakers utilizes their own.

I searched across a few online postings and pieced all the info I could find into this handy table.

Trigger phrases for various Korean smart speakers

How do I talk to my Korean smart speaker?
Smart SpeakerDefault call phraseAdditional call phrasesCall phrases (Korean)
Naver Wave"Sally Ya"Jessica, Janggu, Pinocchio샐리야, 제시카, 짱구, 피노키오
SK Nugu"Ari Ya"Crystal, Rebecca, Aria, Tinkerbell아리야, 팅커벨, 크리스털, 아리아, 레베카
Kakao Mini"Hey Kakao"None [Custom names coming soon]헤이 카카오
KT Giga Genie"Giga Genie"Genie Ya, Chingu Ya, Jaggi Ya기가지니, 지니야, 친구야, 자기야

I don't know how well or clear that table will come out, so here it is in image form too:

Korean smart speaker trigger/call phrases for Naver Wave, SK Nugu, Kakao Mini, KT Giga Genie

If you're unfamiliar, adding "Ya!" to the end of someone's name in Korean indicates that you're calling to them, sort of like adding "Hey, Sam!". So a lot of these end in "ya."

Each speaker seems to come ready to respond to a default name, but with the corresponding smartphone apps you can choose some of the available additional names, and most indicated that custom naming would be coming in the future.

"Janggu" (one of the Naver Wave additional names) is a popular Japanese cartoon character in Korea, and is the Korean name of Crayon Shin-chan. He has a distinct voice, so I wonder if the speaker can respond in his voice? I sure hope not.

KT's Giga Genie (Giga is the brand name for their high speed home internet service, and this speaker in particular is really part of an entire suite of home automation and surveillance) offers the additional names of "Chinguya" (Hey friend!) and "Jaggiya" (Hey dear!).

Chinguya is cute, but sounds too much like Doraemon. Maybe you need to yell it in his distinctive way. [Note: Shockingly, I can't find a simple clip of him saying this online!].

Calling your smart speaker "Jaggiya" sounds incredibly creepy. Imagine you spoke to Alexa like "Hey babe, order me some more mac and cheese." That's a slippery slope. Today smart speakers, tomorrow android sex dolls.

Korean Smart Speakers of 2017. Image: iREX

What can they do?

Most all of these can do the same things Google Home can do. Ask it any basic questions, and it can answer you. Weather, stocks, sports scores, currency conversion, news, etc. You can ask it to translate phrases for you, or even ask it to read you fairy tales in English! Of course you can also stream music from your phone to it via Bluetooth. Play silly audio games. Calendar integration. Find my phone. All the same stuff.

If you have the additional items for your home, as with the Giga Genie line, you can specify commands like "unlock/open the door." Kakao Mini can send Kakao Talk messages via your voice, and soon it will read aloud those you receive! Amazing! Wait, we just invented the telephone. Oops.

I've read that soon they'll be integrated with many more features, like:

  • being able to call a taxi with your voice command
  • make purchases, including groceries and media, auto-charged to your Naver/Kakao Pay account
  • order delivery food
  • get bus arrival info ("When does bus #214 arrive [at your predefined busstop]?")
  • etc.

To see for yourself, here's a real life demonstration video of some guy talking (in Korean) to a Kakao Mini speaker:

He plays some games like 20 questions with it, gets weather and news, sends memos to himself (apparently his "memos" get sent to his own account Kakao chat room). My favorite parts are when he asks it for a fine dust forecast and it replies correctly, and when he asks who owns Dokdo and it responds that DOKDO IS KOREAN, then he cheekily asks twice who owns Takeshima and each time she rebuffs him and goes "네?" like he's an idiot.

Update: While watching YouTube the other day I was shown an advertisement for the KT Genie speaker. The ad does a good job of demonstrating what it does and how it would work in an average day. It's portable, so they even take it in the car on a trip together. It plays the radio, tells the weather, tells travel times, plays games, etc.

My opinion

I can't say exactly, because I don't know anyone who has one, and I have no desire to purchase one myself. I can't see the appeal. Apparently I'm not alone in that:
Korea Herald | Smart speaker users report low satisfaction

I keep my smartphone on me at all times anyway, and it's already just an "OK Google" away from doing all the same stuff. Do I really need an additional device because I'm too lazy to reach into my pocket? And one that I'd only use at home, where I basically just sleep, eat, and watch downloaded TV? Having one in the workplace office, that can distinguish voices, could be a game changer ("Hey Kakao, email my file "Sales Report 1" to Bob"). But I'll pass for now, and give the industry some time to settle into just what we want these things to do for us.

Don't forget though that you can get the same basic experience as having your own Naver Wave simply by using the assistant feature in the Naver smartphone app.

Links for more information

SK Telecom's "Nugu Mini" (L)  - KT's "Giga Genie" - Naver's "Wave" - Kakao's"Kakao Mini" (R). Image: Chosun Biz

Here are a couple of articles (in Korean) discussing some of the pros/cons and real life use cases of these speakers.

And if you want to learn more about these smart speakers, a lot of English language news articles have come out already. I'll link up several of them below.

Naver Smart products with "Clova" AI tech. Image: Aju Daily

Naver Wave links

Kakao Mini smart speaker. Promotional Ryan or Peach figures available. Image: Biz Chosun

Kakao Mini links:

SK Nugu smart speaker. Image: Bloter

SK Nugu links


Finally, just for backlink and citations sake, here are the articles I got the info for the table from.

AI 스피커는 이용자가 음성으로 명령한 내용을 처리하여 특정한 기능을 실행하거나 필요한 정보를 이용자에게 다시 전달해주는 방식으로 동작합니다. 이용자의 음성 명령을 처리하기 위해서는 우선 음성 명령 인식을 시작하는 특정 시점이 있어야 하고 대부분의 AI 스피커들은 ‘호출 단어’라는 것을 사용하고 있습니다. 네이버는 ‘샐리야’, 아마존은 ‘알렉사’, 구글은 ‘오케이 구글’, SK텔레콤은 ‘아리야’ 같은 호출 단어를 사용합니다.
[출처] AI 스피커와 프라이버시|작성자 개인정보보호
NAVER 개인정보보호 블로그 : 네이버 블로그

한편 ‘카카오 미니’는 음성을 인식하는 AI 스피커로 ‘카카오톡’ 메시지를 음성으로 보내고 읽어준다. 이용자는 “헤이 카카오”라고 호출한 뒤 발신자를 지정한 후 스피커를 통해 곧바로 메시지를 보낼 수 있다. 이 밖에도 다음 검색을 통해 뉴스와 환율, 주가, 운세 등을 확인할 수 있으며, 라디오나 팟캐스트도 들을 수 있다.
AI 스피커 '카카오 미니', 개시 38분만에 사전 판매 완료 - Chosunbiz - 프리미엄 경제 파워

기가지니를 부를 때는 '기가지니' '지니야' '친구야' '자기야' 4가지 중 하나만 선택하면 됩니다~^^
지니야, 인공지능TV 기가지니 소식 : 네이버 블로그

그다음 스마트폰에 누구 앱을 내려받아 연결해 사용하면 된다. 누구는 팅커벨, 크리스털, 아리아, 레베카란 이름 중 하나를 선택해 이름을 부르면 이용할 수 있다.
[IT열쇳말] 인공지능(AI) 스피커

웨이브의 기본 호출명은 ‘샐리’. “샐리야”라고 부르면 기기 하단부에 녹색 불이 들어오면서 명령어를 인식할 준비를 한다. 호출명은 제시카와 짱구, 피노키오 중 원하는 것을 선택할 수 있다. 아직까지 원하는 이름을 지어주는 기능은 지원하지 않는다.
네이버 AI스피커 '웨이브', "아빠가 누구야?" 물으니…

If any readers have tried these out, let me know in the comments. I'd be curious about your experience.

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