Facebook Inc. is acquiring a speech-to-text startup called Wit.ai, it announced Monday. Wit.ai’s software can translate spoken words into usable data much like Apple Inc.’s Siri or Google Now, and can be added to existing mobile apps.
Wit.ai says it is powering “hundreds” of apps and devices after it was founded 18 months ago, and has over 6,000 developers using its platform. In addition to mobile applications, Facebook’s latest acquisition sees a place for its voice recognition software among the Internet of Things, a myriad of connected sensors, including product categories like home automation, wearable technology and robotics, that Gartner predicts will number 4.9 billion by the end of 2015.
“Facebook has the resources and talent to help us take the next step,” Wit.ai said in a company blog post. “Facebook’s mission is to connect everyone and build amazing experiences for the over 1.3 billion people on the platform -- technology that understands natural language is a big part of that, and we think we can help.”
Company co-founder Alexandrew Lebrun recently purchased Wit.ai through startup incubator Y Combinator, after selling his voice-operated virtual assistant company called VirtuOz to Nuance Communications, which powers Siri’s voice recognition and also develops Dragon NaturallySpeaking.
"Wit.ai has built an incredible yet simple natural language processing API that has helped developers turn speech and text into actionable data," a Facebook spokesperson said in an email. "We’re excited to have them onboard."
Facebook has been growing its Language Technology Group, which TechCrunch reports could be in preparations for a voice-to-text feature for its popular cross-platform Messenger app. The social network has previously had success with mobile app framework company Parse, which has grown to support 500,000 apps, up from 60,000 when it was acquired in 2013, the report said.