A machine translation company co-founded by Alex Waibel, a professor in the Language Technologies Institute, has been acquired by Zoom to bolster the platform's real-time translation.
Kites, founded in 2015 by Waibel and Sebastian Stüker, originated from research by the pair at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, where both founders are faculty. The company uses machine translation technology and predictive AI to translate speech or provide subtitles simultaneously as a person is talking. Translated speech will appear before a speaker completes a sentence, and the software will autocorrect on its own if needed.
Zoom intends to work with the research scientists at Kites to improve meetings by providing multi-language translation.
"Kites emerged with the mission of breaking down language barriers and making seamless cross-language interaction a reality of everyday life, and we have long admired Zoom for its ability to easily connect people across the world," Waibel and Stüker said. "We know Zoom is the best partner for Kites to help advance our mission and we are excited to see what comes next under Zoom's incredible innovation engine."
During nearly an entire year of discussions, demos and negotiations, the teams from Kites and Zoom never met in-person. The entire deal was struck over Zoom calls.
"It developed into real friendships with many of their team members," Waibel said. "It will be exciting to build out their worldwide language offerings."
Waibel will become a Zoom research fellow and advise the company's machine translation research and development. Stüker and the Kites team will remain based in Germany, where Zoom may open a research and development center.