Facebook navigates voice-based browsing with latest buy

With the purchase of Mobile Technologies, the social network hints at a future when people can browse with their voice.

Matt Harnack/Facebook

Facebook has agreed to purchase 12-year-old Mobile Technologies, maker of cross-lingual communication tools like Jibbigo, a mobile application for speech-to-speech translation. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Jibbigo uses speech recognition and machine learning technologies to let users speak or type phrases and get back translations in the language of their choosing. Facebook said the app will remain operational for the time being. Mobile Technologies

"Facebook, with its mission to make the world more open and connected, provides the perfect platform to apply our technology at a truly global scale," Mobile Technologies said in an announcement on the company's Web site.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the purchase to CNET. Product Management Director Tom Stocky wrote publicly, in a Facebook update, that the social network is interested in exploring voice-based navigation, meaning that the company's intentions may be centered on letting people dictate commands to browse around and update the social network.

"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," Stocky said.

Facebook will continue to support Mobile Technologies' Jibbigo application for the time being, according to the spokesperson, who would not provide additional comment as to whether Facebook would integrate the service's sophisticated translation technology into its own mobile applications. The Jibbigo application uses speech recognition and machine learning technologies to let users speak or type phrases and get back translations in the language of their choosing. The application's offline translators are said to work anywhere, regardless of whether the user has access to the Internet.

The Mobile Technologies staff will move to Facebook's Menlo Park, Calif., campus once the pending deal closes. The social network would not disclose the number of Mobile Technologies team members joining its company.

 

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