Facebook Adds Voice Recognition to Portfolio

Facebook has recently purchased a start-up company involved in Voice recognition. The company called Wit.ai is less than two years old. The start-up provides the ability for developers to combine the use of artificial intelligence and speech recognition in creating what are known as agents with which the user or consumers can interact. It effectively brings the costs of developing costly Artificial Intelligence and speech recognition applications, such as Apple’s Siri on the iPhone, down to where they can be made available to developers at very little to no cost.

The fact is that speech recognition is not perfect or as correct as it can be, as anyone who has used Siri or Micrososft’s Cortana will realize. The technology continues to improve, but the idea behind the formation was to give a free platform for developers at practically no cost.

There are already a few success stories from the use of the platform which was co-founded by CEO Alex Lebrun, who also built VirtuOz that was eventually sold to Nuance a few years ago. VirtuOz was involved in developing speech recognition applications for communication giant AT&T and e-commerce site eBay.

The idea behind the development of the platform was to make interaction between connected devices easier as the Internet of Things rapidly develops. Voice and speech recognition, would make it easier to interact with multiple devices, in much the same way the crew members of the Enterprise on Star Trek spoke to their computers. There are several benefits noted with Wit.ai and perhaps the biggest advantage is that is supports development for all kinds of devices that may be powered by any of the operating systems that include Android and iOS. Support is also provided for development in a variety of Frameworks.

The future of the platform is now uncertain after being bought by Facebook. The purchase price has not been revealed, nor has Facebook made statement about plans for the company, which has recently raised $3 million in funding from investors that include Netscape founder Andreessen Horowitz.

Although Facebook has not yet disclosed any of its plans after having purchased Wit.ai, it may be clear that the company can use the expertise of more that 6000 developers who use the platform.  There may be added benefits seen when natural language is used for connection and communication between devices and people, and it may be another way for Facebook to connect the 1.4 billion people who already use the service. All indications are that the service will remain free and open to developers who form the community that has contributed to the accelerated growth of the platform, and it appears that employees of Wit.ai may  eventually become Facebook employees.

There is also some speculation about how Facebook may include Wit.ai into the existing platform for developers, along with the many tools that are also offered. There are some suggestions are that it can be included into the Messenger app or it can also be used for improved navigation of the platform with voice commands.  By adding Wit.ai to its portfolio, Facebook, which has also been interested in semantic speech recognition, may now have the ability to improve natural language processing, which can then be implemented in advertising.

By Dale Davidson

Information Week

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