Mobile Technologies, a speech recognition and translation startup, developed the app Jibbigo, which launched in 2009. The app is a speech-to-speech translator used on a phone that runs both online and offline, independent of the Internet. Users can record or type sentences and translate them to one of the 25 languages it supports.
According to Mobile Technologies, Jibbigo is used most frequently by travelers in foreign countries and by healthcare workers who face language barriers in humanitarian missions. Facebook's Stocky said that voice capabilities support the social network's mission to be more open and connected.
"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. "We believe this acquisition is an investment in our long-term product roadmap as we continue towards our company's mission."
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Susan Etlinger, an industry analyst with Altimeter Group, says that Facebook's acquisition of Mobile Technologies will promote Facebook's continued growth and mobile mission.
"If you look at where Facebook is today with more than 1.1 billion users, growth won't necessarily come from new users, but convincing existing users to share more information. That's what advertisers want," Etlinger said. "They want to see growth in time spent on the platform and growth in sharing. Mobile has been a huge piece of the monetization strategy, and the acquisition of this company gives them many opportunities to do just that."
Here are four reasons Facebook might want to integrate speech and translation capabilities.
1. Easier Updating and Sharing.
Speech-to-text, text-to-speech and voice commands can make posting status updates, sharing content and consuming content easier for on-the-go users, Etlinger said. "One of the things that becomes an issue is the inability to type when you're driving or when you're in the middle of something else and you want to post an update but you aren't hands-free," she said. "Reducing friction by enabling speech-to-text is something that is inevitable, and it makes the user base more loyal."