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Zoom acquires AI translation startup Kites

Kites' technology will be used to provide Zoom users with real-time, multi-language translation capabilities

Zoom has announced the acquisition of Karlsruhe Information Technology Solutions (Kites) – a startup focused on the development of real-time AI-powered translation technologies.

Founded in 2015 by members of Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology faculty, Kites is comprised of 12 research scientists who will now assist Zoom’s engineering team in advancing in the field of machine translation (MT).

The technology will be used to improve the video conferencing experience by providing real-time, multi-language translation capabilities for Zoom users, enabling the company to increase the efficiency and accessibility of virtual meetings.

Commenting on the news, co-founders Dr. Alex Waibel and Dr. Sebastian Stüker said that Kites “emerged with the mission of breaking down language barriers and making seamless cross-language interaction a reality of everyday life”.

“We have long admired Zoom for its ability to easily connect people across the world. 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,” they added.

Waibel and Stüker are to remain based in Karlsruhe following the acquisition, with Waibel set to become a Zoom Research Fellow – a role which will include advising Zoom on MT research and development.

The video conferencing giant also announced that it “looks forward to investing in growing the [Kites] team”, while also “exploring opening an R&D center in Germany in the future”.

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Velchamy Sankarlingam, president of Product and Engineering at Zoom, said that the company is “continuously looking for new ways to deliver happiness to our users and improve meeting productivity”.

“MT solutions will be key in enhancing our platform for Zoom customers across the globe. With our aligned missions to make collaboration frictionless – regardless of language, geographic location, or other barriers – we are confident Kites’ impressive team will fit right in with Zoom,” he added.

The acquisition of Kites, the financial details of which remain undisclosed, might be symptomatic of Zoom’s focus on expanding its offering to retain users as lockdown restrictions are eased and more workers return to the office. Earlier this month, the company unveiled a new range of desk phones fit for the office and the home that includes high-definition video as well as built-in collaboration software.

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