Facebook is full of surprises and the latest announcement is a good example for it. The world's largest social networking service acquired a speech-to-text startup, Wit.ai, with plans unknown, but hints at exploring new paths on its road to success. Clearly, Facebook is looking beyond smartphones, tablets and PCs as the technology trend is growing massively with wearables and internet-connected appliances.
The acquisition of Wit.ai, a California-based voice recognition tech startup, was announced on Monday. The company was formed 18 months ago with a simple aim to help developers build apps that users can talk to. Over the short tenure, the startup gathered more than 6,000 developers and is powering hundreds of apps and devices. Facebook's real motive behind the acquisition of Wit.ai is unknown but not without a few guesses.
Speech recognition technology is slowly becoming the norm in almost all tech products like smartphones, tablets, wearables and internet-connected appliances. There are big giants like Apple, Google and Microsoft who have long existed in the speech recognition department with their respective services like Siri, Google Now and Cortana.
Since speech recognition is an important part of mobile devices, Facebook's interest in this department does not seem odd. More than half of the company's ad revenue comes from mobile and it is sensible for Facebook to make its service more approachable to its daily and monthly users. Facebook can clearly use the software in many ways, like helping users to update status, chat with friends or even run a quick search, without actually typing into the app.
Facebook or Wit.ai did not reveal the financial details of the deal, but it should be significantly smaller compared to Facebook's acquisition of Oculus VR for $2 billion in March last year.
According to The Register, Wit.ai raised $3 million in funding from VCs and charges up to $1,499 per month to commercial users. But under Facebook's ownership, "The platform will remain open and become entirely free for everyone," the startup said.