• 08/14/2013
    11:15 AM
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Facebook Speech Recognition: 4 Predictions

Facebook's acquisition of Mobile Technologies suggests translation and speech recognition might be coming soon. Here's how users and brands could benefit.
10 Facebook Features To Help You Get Ahead
10 Facebook Features To Help You Get Ahead
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Facebook's latest acquisition could mean that speech recognition and translation capabilities might soon come to the social network. Tom Stocky, director of product management at Facebook, announced the acquisition of Mobile Technologies earlier this week on his Facebook page.

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."

[ Facebook is branching out. Read Facebook Mobile Does Restaurant Reservations. ]

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."


re: Facebook Speech Recognition: 4 Predictions

Update my status while driving? No thanks. I see how translation capability could be useful but I am not feeling the need to dictate to Facebook.

re: Facebook Speech Recognition: 4 Predictions

"Facebook: Waste hours of my time. I repeat: Waste hours of my time."

Jim Donahue
Managing Editor

re: Facebook Speech Recognition: 4 Predictions

The global reach part is interesting, depending on how well the translation works. For many simple updates and pithy marketing slogans, I think the software will have no trouble. But I'm not sure how Internet shorthand varies across languages, and how well software can manage these kinds of translations. Also not sure how it will do with traditional figurative language, complicated syntax, etc. But I like the idea. I'm with Laurianne, though-- if I needed to routinely post status updates while driving, I'd reconsider Facebook's role in my life.