Facebook Acquires Speech Recognition Firm Wit.ai

witai facebook acquisitionFacebook has acquired Wit.ai, a Y Combinator startup firm which specialises in building voice-activated interfaces, with the aim of drawing more developers into its Build-Grow-Monetize project.

Wit.ai was founded 18 months ago and created an API enabling developers to build speech recognition and voice-based interfaces. It already boasts 6,000 developers on its platform, who have built hundreds of apps.

Wit.ai has confirmed the platform will remain open and free to developers, suggesting Facebook will use the technology to encourage developers into its Build-Grow-Monetize loop, where the social network aids developers in producing apps, eventually splitting revenue from hosted ads once an app reaches a large enough audience.

In addition, its likely that members of Wit.ais team will aid Facebook in developing speech-based controls and voice-to-text input for Facebooks main app and Messenger service.

“Facebook has the resources and talent to help us take the next step,” said the Wit.ai team in a post announcing the acquisition. “Facebooks mission is to connect everyone and build amazing experiences for the over 1.3bn people on the platform – technology that understands natural language is a big part of that, and we think we can help.”

With the growth of wearables and smartwatches, many of which have screens too small for traditional text input, voice-to-text is poised to become a hugely important element for app developers, and unlike Google, Apple and Microsoft, Facebook currently has no software in place that enables this. The acquisition of Wit.ai is no doubt an effort to address this lack.