Facebook acquires speech translation app maker Mobile Technologies
Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) has purchased Mobile Technologies, the voice recognition technologies startup behind the speech-to-speech Jibbigo Translator app. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Jibbigo Translator, available for Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS and Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android, leverages speech recognition and statistical machine translation to enable users to speak or type a phrase in one language and translate their thoughts into another tongue. The app supports roughly two dozen languages in all. Consumers also may download Jibbigo's offline translators to access the service without an Internet connection.
"Although more than a billion people around the world already use Facebook every month, we are always looking for ways to help connect the rest of the world as well," said Facebook Management Director Tom Stocky in a blog post announcing the Mobile Technologies deal. "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."
Members of the Mobile Technologies staff will relocate to Facebook's Menlo Park, Calif. headquarters. A Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch the social networking giant will "continue to support the [Jibbigo] app for the time being."
Voice recognition technologies have emerged as a key battleground in the mobile arms race. Arguably the best-known example remains Apple's Siri voice assistant, introduced in late 2011, which enables iPhone users to employ natural spoken language to access and perform device tasks. Google-owned Motorola Mobility recently announced its Android-powered Moto X features built-in voice recognition capabilities as well.
The Mobile Technologies acquisition should also help Facebook expand its footprint in developing nations. Its Java-based Facebook for Every Phone app, launched in early 2011, targets feature phone owners in emerging markets, delivering a pared-down user experience optimized for reduced data consumption. Last month Facebook for Every Phone eclipsed the 100 million active user benchmark, corresponding to roughly one out of every eight of Facebook mobile users worldwide.
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