Social media giant, Facebook, has acquired an AI virtual assistant startup Ozlo for an undisclosed amount. The startup that will be joining Facebook’s Messenger team develops virtual assistants that understand text based conversations and can provide answers to questions that do not have simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers.
According to a report by Recode, the social media company will receive the startup’s technology and a team of 30 employees. Ozlo will also be shutting down its API services and applications.
Founded by ex-Facebook engineering manager Charles Jolley and ex-Mozilla Principal Engineer Mike Hanson the startup reeled in $14 million in May last year from Greylock Partners, AME Cloud Ventures and Yahoo to come out of stealth. At that time the company had built a conversational AI mobile search bot, which was undergoing beta testing.
Its AI assistant (also called Ozlo) emerged out of private beta in October last year and was available on the web, iOS and Android. Earlier this year the startup released three tools; software for data analysis, interpretation of what a user intended to say, and for conversing with users. The conversational tool was developed to get the bot to ask questions back in response to a user request.
“When we started Ozlo, we saw a tremendous explosion of on-the-go communication. We wanted to build a new way for people to connect with each other, gather information and discover services. Our world-class team has built a knowledge graph containing over 2 billion entities and created amazing AI technology that uses this data to understand real-world nuances,” said Jolley, Founder and CEO, Ozlo.
“Now, we’re ready to take the next step in our journey with Messenger. By joining a team that shares our values and our vision, we will be able to continue to work on building experiences powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. There’s a lot more for us to explore ahead and we’re excited to bring our technology to the Messenger community.”
So what will Facebook do with the newly acquired startup? According to a report in VentureBeat, a company spokesperson has stated that Ozlo will help the social media giant build compelling experiences within Messenger that are powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning.
The social media player has been working on its M virtual assistant and it was speculated that the bot would come out of its limited beta at the F8 conference this year, but that did not happen due a design flaw that meant it would redirect to a human assistant to help answer questions it doesn’t understand, states a SilliconAngle report. The Verge also reported that Facebook is working on developing its own smart speaker to compete with Amazon Echo Google Home and Apple’s HomePod.
Maybe the social media giant will use Ozlo’s acqui-hire to boost the capabilities of M virtual assistant enabling it to understand and give more human like responses instead of acting as just a recommendations engine. Having said that, it seems that Facebook will definitely use Ozlo for further enhancing its Messenger assistant to become chattier.