Patent for virtual personal assistants up sharply on future prospects

SEOUL-- Patent requests for virtual personal assistants have shot up in recent years, official data showed Sunday, on growing prospects that artificial intelligence (AI) will become a part of our everyday lives.

According to the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO), the number of applications for AI-based smart assistant programs stood at just 11 in 2013, but this jumped to 36 in the following year and reached 61 filings in 2016.

The office said the interest shown reflects ongoing trends that assistant programs will increasingly become the medium people use to communicate with various devices going forward.

Samsung Electronics Co., the world's No. 1 smartphone manufacturer, launched its Bixby personal assistant with it latest Galaxy S8 flagship phone. The program is designed to compete with Apple's Siri, and Google Assistant.

KIPO said interest in AI assistants are growing because such programs are closely connected to the growth of Internet of Things (IoT) that can allow people to remotely control devices and received services that can make life more convenient and boost efficiency.

IoT is a concept of putting computer chips inside devices and using this to control functions, process and exchange useful data that can eventually lead to greater productivity in manufacturing and more diverse services.

The patent office said of all applications filed 49.7 were submitted by local companies, with 25.2 percent coming from foreign businesses. South Korean universities and laboratories accounted for 12.8 percent of patent files, with individuals making up 12.3 percent.

"There has in particular been a spike in local companies applying for patents which is a reflection of effort being put into this field," an official source said.

He speculated that it will not be too long before advances in AI will make it unnecessary for people to physically touch various devices with operations being carried out through voice command.

Others in the industry said for South Korea to get ahead it needs to merge virtual assistants with such fields as medicine, financial services and electronic settlement sectors. They stressed patents in such areas need to be secured going forward.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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