Facebook acquires AI and speech recognition start-up Wit.ai

6 Jan 2015

Facebook has acquired Wit.ai, an 18-month-old start-up that provides APIs that allow developers to create artificial intelligence and voice-activated platforms.

The platform, which is open and free, has already been used by 6,000 developers who have ingrained the technology into hundreds of mobile apps.

The acquisition of the Y Combinator company could see Facebook incorporate the voice recognition technology into its various mobile apps for useful things like dictating status updates in a panoply of languages or more sophisticated customer relationship tools for advertisers.

The move could also be a useful addition to Facebook’s growing armoury of developer tools. For example in 2013 Last year Facebook acquired Parse for an estimated US$85m with the intention of making Parse the main driver of Facebook’s suite of mobile app development tools.

Machines that can talk the talk

“For a long time we’ve been obsessed with building machines that understand human languages,” the Wit.ai team said last night on its blog.

“18 months ago, we started Wit.ai with the vision that no solution is to be found in a closed, centralised, managed approach. We’ve been building an open, distributed, community-based platform that makes it easy for developers to build apps that users can talk to.

“A great community of 6000+ developers joined forces on the platform, and Wit.ai is already powering hundreds of apps and devices.”

Wit.ai said that technology that understands natural languages will play a pivotal role in Facebook’s mission to connect and serve 1.3bn people around the world.

“The platform will remain open and become entirely free for everyone. Developers are the life of our project and the energy, enthusiasm and passion of the community has helped turn what was once just a lofty dream, into a reality,” Wit.ai said.

Artificial intelligence image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years