In our always-connected world, data is the new black gold. Facebook is already reigning king in the race for data, knowing what you look like, who you spend time with, where you live and where you go out to eat. And now, it’s going to know what you sound like.
The social-networking giant has acquired voice-interface software company Wit.ai, an 18-month-old startup headquartered in Palo Alto, California. In a statement, Facebook called Wit.ai “an incredible yet simple” platform that “has helped developers turn speech and text into actionable data.”
Just what sorts of actions Facebook might take with that newly acquired, very powerful tentacle of data, though, is the particularly curious bit. The assumption is that Facebook users will be able to dictate their messages or posts verbally through their smartphones or computers. But the company could also use the technology in ways invisible to users. Knowing what you sound like is powerful stuff and gives Facebook access to a world of data that it has so far been cut off from.
Wit.ai is an open-source software platform used by more than 6,000 developers to build apps and programs. After being absorbed into the Facebook family, it will continue to be a free, open-sourced platform, the startup says. It will have a lot more money and power fueling its future steps as a company.
“Facebook has the resources and talent to help us take the next step,” Wit.ai said in a blog post announcing the deal. “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.”
The three co-founders of Wit.ai and other select, key members of their team will move into the Menlo Park, Calif.-headquarters of Facebook. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Prior to launching Wit.ai, CEO and co-founder Alex Lebrun launched and sold VirtuOz, a company that he describes as ‘Siri for enterprise.’ Customers of companies like AT&T, eBay, H&R Block, and AOL who call into service phone banks interact with technology developed by Lebrun and his first team of audio engineers.