August 13, 2013
Voice Recognition, Translation Technology Acquired By Facebook
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Facebook has agreed to buy Mobile Technologies, a company that makes a mobile voice recognition app. Mobile Technologies claims it has built the very first speech-to-speech translator, called Jibbigo, on a phone designed to translate languages easily.Facebook could use this technology to add voice recognition functionality to its existing products as the social media giant continues to look toward mobile solutions. Both companies announced the news yesterday, but neither disclosed any terms of the deal. Facebook’s Tom Stocky said some sections of the Jibbigo team will move from their home in Pittsburgh to Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
“I'm excited to announce that we've agreed to acquire Mobile Technologies, a company with an amazing team that's behind some of the world's leading speech recognition and machine translation technology,” wrote Stocky on his Facebook wall post.
“Voice technology has become an increasingly important way for people to navigate mobile devices and the web, and this technology will help us evolve our products to match that evolution. We believe this acquisition is an investment in our long-term product roadmap as we continue towards our company's mission,” he added.
Mobile Technologies was founded in 2001 and developed Jibbigo in 2009, an app the developers claim can translate on-the-fly, with or without an Internet connection. The free app can translate languages without being connected to Jibbigo’s cloud, but it requires that users download specific regional packs to their devices. Mobile Technologies built Jibbigo with help from Carnegie Mellon University and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and say the app is currently used by doctors, educators and travelers all over the world to communicate with others.
“Facebook, with its mission to make the world more open and connected, provides the perfect platform to apply our technology at a truly global scale. We look forward to continuing to develop our technology at Facebook and finding new and interesting ways to apply it to Facebook’s long-term product roadmap,” reads a Mobile Technology statement.
Those that use Jibbigo should be able to continue doing so going forward, though it’s not clear for how long. According to TechCrunch, one spokesperson for Facebook said the company will continue to support the app “for the time being.”
TechCrunch also suggests the social giant could use Jibbigo’s technology to improve their search offerings, particularly when it comes to rolling out Graph Search. Though the search feature that allows users to drill deep into very specific searches works well for English users in America, it is not yet available in other countries. However, Facebook is still working to further expand this feature. Bringing a translating service in-house could help the social network greatly in this effort.
However, Stocky’s comments mention Jibbigo only as a voice recognition software rather than as a translating app. Though speech recognition must be done before translation, it also seems just as likely Facebook will use the Mobile Technology tools to improve voice recognition rather than roll out translation features.