Facebook Buys Mobile Technologies to 'Make the World More Connected'

Facebook says voice recognition technology is a growing way to control mobile devices, and Mobile Technologies will help it evolve that way.

Apple has Siri, Google's Moto X has Touchless Control, and soon Facebook will have Mobile Technologies.

Facebook confirmed Aug. 12 that it had purchased the Pittsburgh-based company "that's behind some of the world's leading speech recognition and machine translation technology."

Facebook Management Director Tom Stocky wrote in a Facebook blog post on Monday that the acquisition is an investment in Facebook's "long-term product roadmap."

"It has always been our mission to make the world more open and connected. Although more than a billion people around the world already use Facebook every month, we are always looking for ways to help connect the rest of the world as well," Stocky said.

"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."

On the site of Jibbigo, its translation app, Mobile Technologies posted a we-just-cashed-in note, writing that Facebook had acquired it and much of the staff would soon be leaving sunny Pennsylvania for Menlo Park, Calif.

In its note, the company went on to say that, with 6,000 languages in the world, the language divide "presents the greatest human communication challenge."

Its Jibbigo app, which can even run offline, has helped close that divide.

"Travelers around the world use Jibbigo to communicate in foreign countries and health-care workers overcome the language challenge in humanitarian missions," the team wrote. "Mobile Technologies also developed and deployed the first automatic, simultaneous interpretation service for lectures and deployed it in educational settings, so ideas can transcend nations and cultures."

Given Facebook's global reach, and desire to make the world more connected, Mobile Technologies added that it's looking forward to "finding new and interesting ways" to apply its technology.

Facebook hasn't revealed how many members of the Mobile Technologies staff will be going along for the ride, or what it paid for the company, which was founded in 2001.

Research firm TechNavio expects the global voice recognition market to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 22 percent between 2012 and 2016. The primary driver, says the firm, will be the increasing demand for voice biometrics.

Another emerging market is the automotive industry. This May, Nuance Communications, maker of the suite of Dragon voice recognition products, purchased Tweddle Connect, an application and content service delivery platform for in-car "infotainment" systems, for $80 million in cash.

Nuance said in a statement that the combination of Tweddle Connect and its Dragon Drive voice platform—which can respond to voice commands to do things like place calls and adjust the climate in a vehicle—will provide automakers "with a single, powerful set of services to create branded personal assistant experiences for a safer, smarter connected car."