LG Electronics: Building man-machine interfaces for fun and profit
by LG Electronics
Dr. Nandhu Nandhakumar on the new ThinQ brand, voice control and working with competitors
South Korean multinational LG Electronics is one of a handful of companies responsible for introducing artificial intelligence to the masses, by adding smarts to its home appliances.
To date, the company taught its washing machines to measure the softness of the laundry, its fridges – to predict when you might need more ice for your drinks, and its cleaning robots – to estimate the rate of dust accumulation in your home. It also got people talking to their TV remotes, instead of pressing buttons.
Meanwhile, in the background, LG started leveraging the predictive aspects of machine learning to inform its aftercare and maintenance services.
To find out more about the intelligent device platform called ThinQ, and ask why speech interfaces are such an important topic for the company, AI Business sat down with Dr. Nandhu Nandhakumar, Senior Vice President in the office of the CTO at LG.
Dr. Nandhakumar got his PhD in Computer Vision and Artificial Intelligence from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a senior member of the IEEE, and chair of the Consumer Technology Association.
people think that machine learning is a relatively recent research field. Can
you tell us when LG first started engaging in ML research?
NN: LG has been investing
in AI research since the mid-1990s. The initial focus was on natural
language understanding and face recognition. However, the cost of implementing
these technologies was prohibitive due to the early state of maturity
of processors, memory, connectivity/networks, sensors, etc. The price
points today make the technology easy to implement. LG has its own AI
brand, ThinQ, which aims to bring new intelligence to connected living
through LG’s smart and AI-powered appliances and electronics.
does a lot of work in natural language interfaces, encouraging customers to
talk to their devices. Why is this so important?
interactivity is a natural first step in developing more intuitive man-machine
interfaces and can provide significant value to the consumer (increased
convenience) if implemented correctly. This is validated by the offerings
promoted by other companies that are being widely adopted - like Amazon Alexa
and Google Assistant. LG ThinQ products boast voice and visual innovations
which enable products to recognize language as well as images and spaces,
transforming the way users interact with products to profoundly improve their
Leveraging its expansive portfolio of consumer
electronics and approach to AI revolving around the ‘Evolve, Open, Connect’
motto, LG is able to implement intuitive and convenient interfaces across a
wider range of products to provide customers with easy, proactive, efficient
and personalized solutions. Our open strategy enables connection
between LG products and other services and platforms, allowing compatibility
with multiple voice assistants so that our customers may choose whichever suits
their needs in different circumstances.
once said that the sheer variety of language accents serves as a barrier to
smart home technology adoption. Could you explain why?
NN: It is not
necessarily a barrier to smart home adoption but a challenge to overcome for
voice-based interaction with smart home systems, which include many
technologies other than language recognition. Intelligent assistants that learn
user preferences from analyzing behavior do not necessarily rely on voice-based
interaction. Neither does LG’s newly launched Proactive Customer Care service,
which is LG's exclusive customer support program using artificial
intelligence to offer useful maintenance tips and alert customers of potential
Some people believe that the future of AI is in the
kitchen. Do you agree?
NN: At the recent
Consumer Electronics Show (CES), LG showcased the use of robotics in the
kitchen - specifically for food preparation and in loading the dishwasher. The
demonstrations addressed commercial kitchens, but these solutions
can reach consumer homes as cost and complexity (of installation,
operation, etc.) decrease over time.
However, when we think
of AI and the future, it's worth noting that smart integrations - whether with Google
Assistant, Amazon Alexa, or future partnerships - are key for allowing for enhanced convenience and better
solutions for users depending on the needs and tech preferences in their homes.
As more and more innovations are being developed, LG's
"openness" strategy is key to providing customers with the best
possible AI experience.
In addition, due to the increasing connectivity
capabilities of smart home products, we predict a trend in more integrated
living spaces where traditional spatial boundaries in the home are becoming
less distinct. Through LG ThinQ, products will be able to be controlled and
managed remotely via voice or other products. As an example, with LG’s AI TVs, users
can monitor and control compatible devices directly from the TV’s Home
Dashboard, enabling a more connected living.
do you think are the key trends that will drive the development of AI in 2020?
NN: Some important
trends that we see are (1) innovations resulting in low cost, low power
silicon implementations of ML and classification systems that make
feasible edge-based intelligence in small inexpensive devices, (2) the
proliferation of open source and freely available software development
tools and packages, and back-end services that almost anyone (e.g. high school
coders) can use to easily and quickly incorporate and experiment with
AI in projects, and (3) continuing innovation in academia and industry
in fundamental algorithms and architectures for AI & ML.
already seen so many different AI-infused electronic products launched so far,
and we can only assume that there will be even more in the future. It is not an
overstatement to say that AI is everywhere, with companies eager to come up
with new AI services and solutions.
With this change comes an increasing need to implement a standardized system across the industry, whether it be technological or otherwise. There are already several initiatives such as the Open Connectivity Foundation founded in 2016, as well as the levels of AI Experience revealed by LG’s CTO at CES 2020 – a framework outlining the different levels of experience that consumers can achieve in terms of convenience and ease of integration of AI.