Zoom acquires Kites for its AI language translation tech

29 Jun 2021

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Kites will be integrated into Zoom’s engineering team in an effort to improve real-time machine translation during calls.

Zoom is acquiring German AI start-up Kites to improve its language translation functions.

Kites, or Karlsruhe Information Technology Solutions, specialises in machine translation solutions. It was founded in 2015 by Dr Alex Waibel and Dr Sebastian Stüker at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

No financial details were disclosed but Kites’ team of 12 researchers will join Zoom’s engineering team to help improve multi-language translation in Zoom meetings. AI has emerged as a key tool in carrying out live language translation of video-conferencing calls but it is still a work in progress for many engineering teams.

“We are continuously looking for new ways to deliver happiness to our users and improve meeting productivity, and MT [machine translation] solutions will be key in enhancing our platform for Zoom customers across the globe,” Velchamy Sankarlingam, president of product and engineering at Zoom, said.

“With our aligned missions to make collaboration frictionless – regardless of language, geographic location, or other barriers – we are confident Kites’ impressive team will fit right in with Zoom.”

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Waibel and Stüker said that joining Zoom will help in expanding Kites’ mission.

“Kites emerged with the mission of breaking down language barriers and making seamless cross-language interaction a reality of everyday life, and we have long admired Zoom for its ability to easily connect people across the world,” the founders said.

Both of the founders and their team will remain based in Karlsruhe. Zoom said that it is “exploring” opening an R&D centre in Germany in the future.

The deal marks Zoom’s second acquisition. It purchased Keybase last year to improve its security capabilities just as the company saw a flood of new users at the start of the pandemic.

In January of this year, Zoom raised $1.75bn in a share sale that it said would be put towards M&A activity.

The company’s total revenue for the first quarter of this year reached $956.2m, an increase of 191pc on the same period last year. It is now focusing on the future of hybrid working, with a new $100m venture fund to invest in businesses building apps for the video-conferencing platform and launching an all-in-one platform for virtual event organisers.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin

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