Facebook Bets on Speech Recognition and Voice Interfaces for the Internet of Things

Facebook acquired Wit.ai, a Y Combinator startup founded 18 months ago to create an API for building voice-activated interfaces, TechCrunch reports. Wit.ai already has 6,000 developers on its platform who have built hundreds of apps.

A Facebook source said:

Wit.ai has built an incredible yet simple natural language processing API that has helped developers turn speech and text into actionable data,” Facebook tells me. “We’re excited to have them onboard.

Wit.ai announced the acquisition with a blog post:

It is an incredible acceleration in the execution of our vision. Facebook has the resources and talent to help us take the next step. 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. The platform will remain open and become entirely free for everyone.

Facebook-Branded Robots in 2020?

Facebook and Wit.aiA Seeking Alpha article speculates that Facebook will use Wit.Ai’s advanced voice-recognition technology to build a platform for its entry in the Internet of Things (IoT) industry.

Wit.Ai’s technology has the potential to become a big moneymaker on small Internet of Things devices. Smart devices like a health monitor band does not have a touchscreen for smart interaction with its owner. Voice recognition is, therefore, the better interface for humans to interact with no-display smart devices. Wit.Ai’s website makes it clear that its product’s total addressable market is not limited to phones or tablets.

The Seeking Alpha article states that Wit.Ai was acquired much cheaper than the $2.0 billion that Facebook paid for Oculus Rift.

Voice-recognition for home automation, robots, mobile apps, wearable computers, and messenger agents, has better moneymaking potential than virtual reality technology. Facebook can rent Wit.ai’s technology to all IoT device vendors or sell outright licenses on a per-device basis.

Also read: 2015 – Virtual Reality Gets Real

Sales of IoT devices are set to explode in the future. IDC is already estimating that the total value for all things related to the Internet of Things will be worth $7.1 trillion by 2020. Wit.Ai is a cheap way for Facebook to monetize users of IoT devices.

Consumers will likely buy more units of a smart thermostat if they can make voice commands to it. [Facebook]’s acquisition of Wit.Ai might lead to smarter robot cleaners in the future. Facebook’s brand power in 2020 should allow it to sell Facebook-branded robots too.

Images from Facebook, Wit.ai and Shutterstock.

Giulio Prisco is a freelance writer specialized in science, technology, business and future studies.