Facebook is beefing up its voice recognition team. Re/code is reporting that the company has acquired Wit.ai, an open platform for natural language processing. The Wit.ai team says the platform will remain open and available in the wake of the acquisition, although it's unclear how the platform will develop in the long term. Facebook has long held an interest in artificial intelligence software, including language processing, in part because such programs offer an easy way to leverage the massive amount of data flowing through the platform. "Facebook’s mission is to connect everyone and build amazing experiences for the over 1.3 billion people on the platform," Wit.ai said in a blog post. "Technology that understands natural language is a big part of that, and we think we can help."
Speculation: FB buying wit.ai at least as much to do with @oculus needing input modalities as FB’s needs. Voice a great fit for some VR apps— Beau Cronin (@beaucronin) January 5, 2015
Facebook's immediate plans for the acquisition are unclear, and the software used by Wit.ai does not seem to relate to pre-existing programs the company had been running on image recognition. Still, it's easy to imagine ways in which solid voice recognition could improve the Facebook experience, from Siri-style commands to more subtle emotional recognition or deeper mobile integration. Others have speculated the company plans to pair the new software with the Oculus Rift as a way of navigating within specific virtual environments. Until Wit.ai comes clean, it's anyone's guess.