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Facebook Acquires Wit.ai, a Startup That Helps People Talk to Robots

Facebook made its first acquisition of the year Monday.

Andrea Danti/ Shutterstock

Facebook has acquired Wit.ai, a startup focused on natural language processing that is intended to let users talk to their phones (or their robots), according to a Wit.ai blog post.

Wit.ai builds technology that understands voice commands, allowing users to vocally communicate with machines. The 18-month-old startup currently operates what is called an “open platform,” meaning it works with mobile developers who build the technology into their apps, then share info back to the community to help improve the technology.

Wit.ai says that it will remain open following the acquisition, and will be free to developers, too.

It’s not entirely clear what Facebook’s motivation was for the acquisition. Most likely is that Facebook may someday incorporate voice recognition technology into its own products, and buying a small startup like Wit.ai is probably a quicker way to get a jump start than building from scratch.

It’s also possible that Facebook sees this as a developer play — that is, it wants to offer this technology to other mobile developers building products that work alongside Facebook.

“For a long time [we’ve] been obsessed with building machines that understand human languages,” the startup said on its blog. “Facebook’s mission is to connect everyone and build amazing experiences for the over 1.3 billion people on the platform — technology that understands natural language is a big part of that, and we think we can help.”

Wit.ai’s founding team — Alex Lebrun, Laurent Landowski and Willy Blandin — will be joining Facebook along with a few other employees at the company’s Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters, according to a Facebook spokesperson.

The startup, which currently resides in Palo Alto, raised $3 million in funding last October in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz.

A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment on the terms of the deal.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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