TikTok tests AI chatbot called Tako

TikTok is testing an AI chatbot called Tako that can recommend videos based on what people ask it, according to screenshots of the feature shared with The Verge.

If TikTok ends up releasing it widely, the chatbot could “radically change search and navigation” in the app, according to Daniel Buchuk of Watchful Technologies, a firm that spots these kinds of upcoming app changes for Fortune 500 companies.

In screenshots of the test that Buchuk shared with The Verge, Tako sits above the TikTok profile icon to the right of a video. Tapping it opens up a chat screen, where the bot appears capable of answering a wide range of queries. It’s unclear what AI model TikTok is using to power Tako.

Tako will display suggested prompts to help a user start a conversation with the bot. According to Buchuk, “If I’m watching food videos and ask for a recipe I’ll get related TikTok videos for the recipe, or if I ask for good art exhibitions in Paris it’ll show videos alongside a list of suggestions in the answer.” A prompt suggested by Tako in one screenshot says, “What is the significance of King Charles III’s coronation?”

Screenshots of TikTok’s Tako AI chatbot test.Credit: Watchful

A spokesperson for TikTok, Zachary Kizer, called the chatbot “a limited experiment” and told The Verge that it isn’t currently available to users in North America or Europe. In a tweet, the company said the test is only in the Philippines.

“We’re always exploring new technologies that add value to our community,” he said in an emailed statement. “In select markets, we’re testing new ways to power search and discovery on TikTok, and we look forward to learning from our community as we continue to create a safe place that entertains, inspires creativity, and drives culture.”

TikTok’s initial explanation of how Tako works.Credit: Watchful

As spotted by the attorney Josh Gerben, TikTok recently filed a trademark application for “chatbot software” called Tako, which suggests the company is gearing up for a wider release. It wouldn’t be the first social media app to jump on the chatbot bandwagon in recent months. In April, Snapchat made its My AI bot available to everyone for free, and Mark Zuckerberg recently told Meta investors that he wants to “introduce AI agents to billions of people.”