Facebook buys a voice technology company

Facebook is acquiring new voice recognition tools and talent, with a deal to buy Mobile Technologies, maker of the Jibbigo translation app.

Jibbigo is a mobile app for Android and iOS phones that lets users speak a phrase in one language and provides a text and spoken translation in up to 10 different languages.  It works online but also provides translations without an Internet connection.

Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.  But in a statement on its web site, Pittsburgh-based Mobile Technologies said “many” of its employees will be joining Facebook at the social network’s Menlo Park campus. The smaller company described its technology this way:

“Travelers around the world use Jibbigo to communicate in foreign countries and health-care workers overcome the language challenge in humanitarian missions. Mobile Technologies also developed and deployed the first automatic, simultaneous interpretation service for lectures and deployed it in educational settings, so that ideas can transcend nations and cultures.”

Facebook didn’t say how it plans to use the technology, but tech bloggers are speculating it could be incorporated into a variety of Facebook services, such as providing instant translation for online chats or help for travelers looking for local landmarks or other amenities.  Facebook’s biggest rivals already offer voice-enabled services – Google through its voice commands and its Google Now mobile service, and Apple through its Siri personal assistant.

“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,” Facebook’s Tom Stocky wrote in a brief announcement that appeared on his own Facebook page.

Stocky, who worked on search and other services when he was at Google, is now a director of product at Facebook, where he helped lead development of Graph Search and other services at the social networking company.


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