Yahoo Buys Language Recognition Start-Up SkyPhrase

Voice recognition © brem stocker Shutterstock 2012

The natural language processing technology could help improve search, and do a lot more

Yahoo is set to improve its products by acquiring the natural language processing (NLP) start-up SkyPhrase for an undisclosed amount.

Much of the work done by the company so far has centred on conversational search queries for sports information. However, technology developed by SkyPhrase could eventually help transform human speech into a programming language, capable of conveying complex instructions.

“We are excited to join Yahoo Labs to continue to work on our shared vision of making computers deeply understand people’s natural language and intentions. We can’t wait to take things to the next level together,” says a statement from the SkyPhrase team.

Tell it like it is

SkyPhrase, consisting of just four people, creates software that translates natural human speech into code. “The technology we developed enables computers to understand more complex and precise human language than ever before,” claims the company.

Crystal Eye StudioThe CEO of SkyPhrase Nick Cassimatis previously told TechCrunch he believes NLP technology could be applied to a wide variety of digital products and services, not just search.

The team from SkyPhrase will be joining Yahoo Labs, the company’s R&D division with headquarters in New York. In the short term, the technology could improve Yahoo’s search engine and its fantasy football products – something the start-up is already familiar with.

In the long term, the acquisition could help Yahoo compete against voice controlled applications developed by Google and Apple’s Siri.

Under Marissa Mayer’s leadership, Yahoo has acquired over 20 companies this year alone, including Tumblr, Rockmelt, Xobni, Admovate, Qwiki, GhostBird Software, Rondee, Snip.It and Summly, developed by a London-based teenager who earned a reported $30 million from the deal.

However, the company couldn’t get its hands on popular video platform Dailymotion, after the French government minister blocked the acquisition, saying that the US group wanted to “devour” its smaller competitor.

In comparison, Yahoo made just two acquisitions in 2012.

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