Facebook Acquires Californian Speech-Recognition Startup Wit.ai

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Facebook announced today that it had acquired a voice-recognition startup Wit.ai that claims to “turn speech into actionable data,” a move that could give the social network more information for targeted advertisements.

Wit.ai, a two year old Palo Alto, California, will move to Facebook’s offices in nearby Menlo Park, according to a Facebook spokeswoman. Facebook will hire some employees of Wit.ai, including its three co-founders.

Wit.ai was founded by Alex Lebrun, Willy Blandin and Laurent Landowski. Lebrun, according to his LinkedIn page, was founder and chief executive of VirtuOz, which was acquired by Nuance Communications, maker of the popular Dragon voice recognition software. Landowski was VirtuOz’s general manager in Europe, according to his page.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the spokeswoman declined to say how much Facebook paid for the company. The spokeswoman also declined to comment on further uses for Wit.ai.

However, Wit.ai’s technology could allow Facebook users to speak commands that could be converted to text as posts or messages. The technology also has the ability to expand Facebook’s already optional feature that can recognize music and television shows and encourage users to post about what they’re listening to or watching.

Facebook rivals Apple Inc., Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. all have integrated voice-recognition technology into their mobile-operating systems for smartphones.

In a blog post, Wit.ai said it is already used by hundreds of apps and devices.

“Facebook has the resources and talent to help us take the next step,” Wit.ai said in its announcement 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.”

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