Meet the Only Voice Assistant That Speaks Greek, Serbian, Albanian, and Bulgarian
A Greek tech company could beat out Amazon and Google when it comes to the voice assistant market in the Balkans. The MAIC (pronounced ‘Mike’)voice assistant platform speaks languages the tech giants aren’t focused on, earning a headstart in those countries.
All Greek to Me
Making Life Simple (MLS) Innovation is a 30-year-old software engineering company based in Thessalonica, Greece. After building smartphones, tablets, and similar technology for the last decade, it released the Greek-speaking MLS Artificial Intelligence Center (MAIC) voice assistant in January. The voice assistant is built into all MLS products and run on Google’s Android operating system. The critical difference between MAIC and the other big-name voice assistants is that it speaks Greek.
MLS refers to MAIC as the “European Artificial Intelligence and Voice Recognition Platform” and has ambitions to launch the voice assistant across the continent. Almost immediately after releasing MAIC Greece and Cyprus, MLS started to add new countries and languages. The first expansion was to Serbia, where the company launched two smart displays powered by MAIC. The Serbian edition of MAIC can understand and speak Serbian and also have an understanding of the local culture. For instance, it can play Serbian music, call up local news, and even tell Serbian fairy tales.
Two months later, MLS expanded MAIC’s presence to Albania and Bulgaria. Like in Greece and Serbia, the voice assistant is built into MLS devices. In each country, MLS partners with local telecom firms to sell its products, but the software and hardware are all developed by the company exclusively. Like most voice assistants, MAIC can set up calls and messages, answer questions, perform navigation, and launch apps installed on the platform. It can also run smart home devices, understanding the relevant terms and names in each language.
Native Tongue Assistants
Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, and Serbia together have a population of around 28 million, but it’s the localized language and culture of the MAIC voice assistant, not its current market size, that makes it potentially so important.
The most widely used voice assistants right now speak English and Chinese as their main or only language. Options in other languages have been limited mainly to widely-spoken European languages like German, French, and Spanish. As voice assistant-enabled devices become more common, the giants like Google, Amazon, and Apple have started to invest in additional languages and dialects. Both Google and Amazon recently made a big deal about adding new services and languages in India, for instance. Alexa can speak Hindi and Hinglish, a mix of Hindi and English, while Google Assistant can speak in Hindi and half a dozen other Indic languages.
Less populous European countries have yet to attract native language options for the major voice assistants. For people who want a voice assistant that speaks their native tongue, an option like MLS is attractive. It’s an easy switch in terms of hardware too, since the phones and other devices built by MLS use Android as their operating system. The company has said it already has its sights set on three more countries this year, with more to come. As and when the tech giants add these languages to their options, MAIC will be well-placed to compete simply by dint of familiarity.