Tech reviews

Line to license its AI tools in race against Google and Amazon

TOKYO — Chat app provider Line will license its artificial intelligence software for text recognition to outside developers for the first time as it tries to catch up with American tech leaders like Amazon in AI-based services, the Nikkei has learned.

The Tokyo-based company will begin providing technology for a fee in early 2019, starting with AI software that can understand written Japanese.

With AI specialists in short supply around the world, Line expects this tool will help companies that lack in-house developers install services like chatbots that can interact with customers through text.

Line also will open up technology that captures printed words using a camera and converts them to digital text. Potential uses for this tool include automatic translation.

New services developed using these tools would not need to be linked to Line’s namesake chat app.

But the company hopes that embracing open innovation — the sharing of proprietary technology — leads to new and better related services, in turn increasing app usage and the revenue it generates from advertisements and payment services.

Google provides a number of cloud-based AI tools, including image recognition software that can be incorporated into systems without advanced programming skills. offers its product recommendation tool for a fee.

Line plans to spend 48 billion yen ($435 million) from 2019 to 2021 on research and development and other AI-related activities. Projects include its AI assistant Clova, intended for smart speakers, as well as technology that can reproduce human speech.


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