Why Facebook is snapping up a speech-translation company

Mobile Technologies, which is based in Pittsburgh, will likely be used to bolster Facebook's speech-recognition capabilities. 

The Facebook homepage is reflected in the eyes of a user in this 2012 file photo.

Facebook is set to acquire Pittsburgh-based Mobile Technologies, the makers of the Jibbigo speech-to-speech translation app. 

In a post on his personal Facebook page, product manager Tom Stocky said that at least some Mobile Technologies employees would soon join the Facebook engineering teams at company HQ, in Menlo Park, Calif. "We believe this acquisition is an investment in our long-term product roadmap as we continue towards our company's mission," Mr. Stocky wrote

So what exactly does the largest social network in the world want with Mobile Technologies? Well, Stocky didn't go into specifics (neither did Mobile Technologies), saying only that "voice technology has become an increasingly important way for people to navigate mobile devices and the web." 

But Mobile Technologies, which was founded in 2001, specializes in speech recognition, and it's a safe bet that Facebook sees the acquisition as a way to bolster existing features, from the News Feed to its own translation app

For his part, TechCrunch's Josh Constine sees "big things" in the deal. 

"It could one day power cross-language chat, voice translation for traveling Facebook users, or help it take News Feed posts written in one language and display them in another," Mr. Constantine writes. "Another possibility is that Facebook wants to offer voice Graph Search, considering Stocky recently headed up Facebook’s search efforts. Facebook is currently trying to expand the feature beyond English, and could probably use a little help." 

Neither Facebook nor Mobile Technologies disclosed the parameters of the deal. 

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