Facebook Acquires “Mobile Technologies”, Developer Of Speech Translation App Jibbigo


By Katharine Allen & Barry S. Olsen

Published: 13 August 2013


From TechCrunch...


Article Excerpt: “Facebook’s latest acquisition could help it connect users across language barriers. It has just announced that it’s acquired the team and technology of Pittsburgh’s Mobile Technologies, a speech recognition and machine translation startup that developed the app Jibbigo. From voice search to translated News Feed posts, Facebook could to a lot with this technology.


Facebook tells me “We’ll continue to support the [Jibbigo] app for the time being.” Jibbigo launched in 2009, and allows you to select from over 25 languages, record a voice snippet in that language or type in some text, and then get a translation displayed on screen and read aloud to you in a language of your choosing.”


Link to the full story here


Link to an interview with Jibbigo’s founder here.


InterpretAmerica’s take: Silicon Valley is only becoming more bullish on language technologies, in particular machine translation. This latest acquisition by Facebook is another clear sign that growth beyond one language or one culture is essential for businesses today. But here’s the rub, tech companies look to tech to solve the language problem, while human translators and interpreters are quick to emphasize the importance of the human element. We all play to our strengths and focus on what we know.


In 2012, InterpretAmerica had the chance to talk with Jibbigo’s founder, Professor Alex Waibel at a conference of interpreter trainers in Europe. After his demonstration of the “speech translation” technology (imperfections and all) interpreters in the audience walked away convinced that they would not be replaced anytime soon. Although they are right, this attitude misses the point. This technology was never meant to replace conference interpreters at the United Nations, the European Parliament or anywhere else. Jibbigo and other services like it, are taking interpreting to the masses, albeit imperfectly. But unlike human-powered interpreting, it scales well, is available on demand and fits in your pocket. This is why Facebook, with its 840 million monthly active users around the globe, went shopping for translation technology.

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