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Zoom acquires translation startup Kites for an undisclosed sum

Another week, more news from Zoom.

Allie Nawrat

Technologist

Zoom Kites
Credit: LENA SHEBI via Twenty20.

This time in the realm of machine translation for Zoom meetings. Unleash Your Potential

  • Zoom has decided to move further into the space of real-time translation by acquiring German startup Kites.
  • The financial details of the deal were not disclosed.
  • However, Zoom announced the Kites’ team would remain based in Germany and it is keen to grow the team in the future.

Within a week of Zoom announcing it was adding a pronoun feature to make its meetings more welcoming to LGBTQ+ employees, the video conferencing giant wants to further drive inclusivity by acquiring Karlsruhe Information Technology Solutions (Kites).

Founded in 2015, Kites is a German-based startup focused on real-time translation solutions that leverage AI. It was spun out of Carnegie Mellon and Karlsruhe Institute Technology by Dr Alex Waibel and Dr Sebastian Stüker who now serve as company chairman and CEO respectively.

Ultimately the acquisition of Kites will help Zoom engineers to advance the field of real-time machine translation.

This capability is particularly useful for video meetings between international teams that operate in multiple languages. Zoom’s current translation services are primarily provided through app integrations like Ligmo and Wordly.

However, according to Venture Beat, Kites claims its product is more advanced than its competitors, especially since it has an error rate of only 5% and can self correct translations based on additional context.

As a result of the Zoom-Kites deal, Dr Stüker and his team will remain based in Germany. Zoom is keen to further invest in growing the team in future.

While Dr Waibel will become a Zoom Research Fellow and advise the video conferencing company on machine translation research and development.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Talking about the deal, Zoom president of product and engineering Velchamy Sankarlingam noted: “We are continuously looking for new ways to deliver happiness to our users and improve meeting productivity, and machine translation 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.”

Dr Waibel and Dr Stüker added: “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.

“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.”

It is highly likely this won’t be the last time Zoom invests in or acquires a promising startup.

This is because, back in April, the company launched a $100 million startup fund to help it continue to diversity its offerings and integrate the most innovative apps out there.

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