BENGALURU — Indian government's think-tank Niti Aayog is teaming up with academic institutions and private companies to create a voice interface in 18 languages that can be used by Indians for taking care of day-to-day issues related to agriculture, skills, health or education.

Apparently, many e-commerce companies have shown interest in such a product, according to a report in the Economic Times.

The interface is likely to be a virtual assistant device very similar to Alexa. It will be able to carry out voice interaction, music playback, to-do lists, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks and provide real-time information.

Such devices are not available in any of the local lingos and interact and communicate mostly in English, German, French, Italian and Spanish.

Niti Aayog is working with IIT Patna to develop a natural language processor or NLP for commercial use. The IIT Patna team, led by director Pushpak Bhattacharya, will conduct market research for the government to identify modifications needed in the existing technology to make it suitable for Indian users in local languages.

Bhattacharyya confirmed in the ET report that his team and 14 other institutes are working together in the Technology Development in Indian Languages (TDIL) project commissioned by the ministry of information technology. “This technology would impact all e-commerce companies, education institutes, any company — for example, airlines — that uses chatbots as now they can interact in multiple languages,” Bhattacharya.

The government plans to partly fund the project to promote its commercial production, he said. This will open up a wide range of opportunities not just for users at the local level but holds vast business potential for corporations as well.

— Sufia Tippu is a freelance tech journalist based in India contributing to EE Times India