Facebook acquires AI startup to improve virtual assistant
Tue 1 Aug 2017
Facebook has acquired artificial intelligence (AI) company Ozlo to improve its Messenger virtual assistant, M.
Ozlo is an AI startup specialising in understanding text-based conversations, which it achieves through analysing a massive library of information that it calls a knowledge graph.
Its website states: ‘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.’ This means it can do things like saying whether or not a restaurant is group-friendly on the basis of reviews.
The company and its staff are going to be completely integrated into Facebook’s Messenger team. Facebook hopes that the huge database and Ozlo’s technology will be particularly tailored to responding to requests for recommendations, and will reply in ‘natural language.’
This is similar to Siri or Google’s Assistant but is something which Facebook had struggled with previously. After the roll-out of M, the intelligence of the bot was questionable. It had to pass queries that it didn’t understand over to human ‘handlers’, meaning that many thousands of staff would be managing requests from an audience of 1.2 billion monthly users.
Now though, the startup with 30 staff is being brought into Facebook’s offices to improve the service. All of its own APIs and apps will close down.
The two companies already have ties – Ozlo’s CEO and co-founder, Charles Jolley, was formerly platform head of Facebook for Android.
The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it seems to be an important for Facebook, with Mark Zuckerberg stressing the importance of AI at its second quarter earnings call on July 26.
Ozlo’s website displays a message stating that it will be ‘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.’