Facebook to Acquire Mobile Technologies

Facebook has agreed to acquire Mobile Technologies, the developers of Jibbigo, a speech-to-speech translator for phones. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Jibbigo Translator is a free translation app for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, and enables unlimited online translations in more than 20 languages and dialects, plus the option to download offline translators. Mobile Technologies, founded in 2001, has also developed and deployed the first automatic, simultaneous interpretation service for lectures and has deployed it in educational settings.

Tom Stocky, director, product management at Facebook, said Mobile Technologies brings some of the world's leading speech recognition and machine translation technology to the social networking site.

"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," commented Stocky on Facebook. "We believe this acquisition is an investment in our long-term product roadmap as we continue towards our company's mission."

Mobile Technologies was founded by Dr. Alex Waibel, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in the United States and at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany. He is also the director of the International Center for Advanced Communications Technologies.

"Alex Waibel has long been a respected member of the speech community, especially for his work on translation," says Bill Scholz, president of NewSpeech, and head of the Applied Voice Input/Output Society (AVIOS). "Packaging recognition, translation, and synthesis in a stand-alone application is a significant achievement, and the acquisition of his company by FaceBook will give it the application the exposure it deserves."

Another industry insider, Dan Miller, senior analyst at Opus, believes the union is a good fit.

"Speech-to-speech translation has been the dream mobile app for people who are traveling in foreign countries, and now that Facebook has found its mobile mojo, it sees the value for social networking," Miller says. "Mobile Technologies has built an impressive set of language pairs, making it possible for English speakers to converse with buddies who speak Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, German, French, Korean, Iraqi Arabic, and Tagalog. The differentiator is that Jibiggo runs without needing a link to the cloud."

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