Facebook has acquired Wit.ai, a natural language recognition API provider. Founded 18 months ago, Wit.ai aimed to build an open, distributed, community-based platform that developers could use to build apps with speech recognition. The Wit API eliminates the app developer's need to build a voice recognition platform from the ground up and integrates world-class natural language processing into any app in a matter of minutes. With its open approach, Wit.ai has attracted a solid user base, and Facebook's resource and developer base could help Wit.ai take its product to a new level.
In recent years, Facebook has made significant investments in its developer base, specifically the mobile developer base. Adding Wit.ai to its growing resources could significantly boost Facebook's capabilities for developers to utilize. Voice search is an obvious start for any voice recognition platform, but Wit.ai brings an open approach that could extend voice capabilities to any app, regardless of platform. Beyond search, voice-to-text functionality for Messenger, semantic meaning and the growing base of Facebook apps could all benefit from the inclusion of Wit.ai's functionality.
Speech recognition and voice control will continue to grow in importance as the market for wearables expands. For instance, smartwatches and glasses have the capacity to run most Facebook apps; however, both groups of hardware are small. An effective keyboard for intentionally small infrastructure is impractical and lessens the likelihood that someone would use a Facebook app on such a device. Should a Facebook app be voice-enabled via Wit.ai, Facebook's base for devices grows exponentially.
The community aspect of of Wit.ai could also add massive value to Facebook. Wit.ai will continue to be free and open, with a continued reliance on its user base to improve the platform. Facebook has a community base of more than a billion users. Most likely, the greatest value Wit.ai will offer Facebook hasn't yet crossed the minds of those at Facebook or Wit.ai. Rather, the value will reveal itself as Facebook's enormous user base begins to use, integrate and evaluate Wit.ai's capabilities. Stay tuned for more to come from the Facebook-Wit.ai combination.