Voice Recognition Startup Wit.ai Acquired by Facebook
One of the hottest new Y Combinator Silicon Valley startups is about to become part of Facebook’s ever growing empire. On January 5, 2015, Wit.ai, a startup specializing in voice recognition, announced that it had been acquired by Facebook just 18 months after its founding. CEO Alexandre Lebrun called the acquisition “an incredible acceleration in the execution of our vision,” believing that Facebook has the resources and manpower “to help us take the next step.”
Although a relatively unknown name, Wit.ai has proven its worth in the mobile industry, which would also support Facebook’s interest in the startup’s technology. According to tests run by Chinese web search giant Baidu, the startup was considered “more accurate” in speech recognition than Apple’s and Microsoft’s offerings, while being on par with Google’s. As Bloomberg explains, voice recognition technology has the potential to let Facebook rank content based on what is being said or presented in videos through a “natural language processing tool” that will be able to detect what people are saying. While personal voice assistants like Siri and Cortana have a more “call and response” action to them, Wit.ai provides more everyday application and understanding commands, similar to Google’s current voice search technology.
Facebook’s real motive behind this acquisition has not been made clear yet, but including a speech recognition feature in its already complex algorithm opens up even more avenues for users to discover content and interact with others.
A job posting for engineers in speech recognition might give some insight into Facebook’s future plans for the technology, and sites like TechCrunch have speculated the inclusion of a “speech-to-text” function modeled after the Messenger app. It should also be recalled that Facebook was projected to exceed YouTube in video uploads by the end of 2014, so making use of voice recognition in their videos to aid in searches and ranking is an entirely plausible scenario as well.
In a statement, Facebook representatives expressed their excitement to have Wit.ai onboard and commended their “incredible yet simple natural language processing API that has helped developers turn speech and text into actionable data.”
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