Zoom has acquired a real-time machine translation company named Karlsruhe Information Technology Solutions – Kites. The company looks to leverage Kites resources to improve meeting productivity and efficiency on Zoom by providing real-time multi-language translation capabilities for users. Zoom says that “Kites’ talented team of 12 research scientists will help its engineering team advance the field of machine translation.” Kites was established in 2015 and the company was co-founded by Dr. Alex Waibel and Dr. Sebastian Stüker.
The company has not released the financial details of the acquisition, but has confirmed that Dr. Stüker and the rest of the Kites team will remain based in Karlsruhe, Germany. Zoom plans to invest and grow the team there and will even explore the opening of an R&D center in Germany sometime in the future. In its bog post, the company mentions that Dr. Waibel will become a Zoom Research Fellow, a role in which he will advise on Zoom’s machine translation research and development.
Kites began its journey originally developing classroom translation tools for students who needed help understanding English or German spoken by professors during university lectures. The Kites app is said to now be “intuitive, accurate and full of advanced functionality.” It integrates seq2seq technology and predictive AI to allow fast and accurate translation. “Transcript and translated text in fact appear before the speaker completes a sentence, and/or self-corrects if a better interpretation is warranted by further context,” the company says on its website.
Zoom introduced real-time live transcription for all users earlier this year. However, the company on its support page says that ‘live transcription’ only supports English for now and it recommends users to speak clearly for best results. The accuracy of Zoom’s live transcription feature is also said to depend on many variables like background noise, volume and clarity of the speaker’s voice, speaker’s proficiency with the English language, and lexicons and dialects specific to a geography or community. The integration of Kites intelligence will likely improve Zoom’s capabilities in translation.