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Zoom to acquire German startup to bring real-time translation to meetings

·2-min read

As companies expand worldwide and meet online in tools like Zoom, the language barrier can be a real impediment to getting work done. Zoom announced that it intends to acquire German startup Karlsruhe Information Technology Solutions or Kites for short, to bring real-time machine-learning-based translation to the platform.

The companies did not share the terms of the deal, but with Kites, the company gets a team of top researchers, who can help enhance the machine-learning translation knowledge at the company. "Kites’ talented team of 12 research scientists will help Zoom’s engineering team advance the field of [machine translation] to improve meeting productivity and efficiency by providing multilanguage translation capabilities for Zoom users," the company said in a statement.

The deal appears to be an acqui-hire as the company adds those 12 researchers to the Zoom engineering group. It intends to leave the team in place in Germany with plans to build a machine-learning translation R&D center with additional hires over time as the company puts more resources into this area.

While the Kites website reveals little about it other than an address, the company's About page on LinkedIn indicates that the startup was founded in 2015 by two researchers who taught at Carnegie Mellon and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology with the goal of building machine-learning translation tooling.

"The Kites mission is to break down language barriers and make seamless cross-language interaction a reality of everyday life," the LinkedIn overview stated. It claims to be among a handful of companies, including Google and Microsoft, to have developed "leading speech recognition and translation technologies," which would suggest that Zoom has acquired some key technologies.

It does not appear the company had a commercial product, but the site does indicate that there is a machine-learning translation platform that is in use in academia and government. Regardless, the fruits of the company's research will now belong to Zoom.

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