Apple Purchases AI Voice Startup Pullstring

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Category: Martech
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Apple has reportedly agreed to acquire the AI voice startup PullString for at least $30 million.

PullString was known formerly as ToyTalk. It was founded by former Pixar executives, including CTO Oren Jacob, on 2011. They were founded to make interactive voice apps for toys. Recently, they have expanded their range into the Internet of Things. The company first developed voice apps for toys including Hello Barbie. These days, they cater to the smart home-assistant market.

PullString raised around US$44 million in venture capital and its most recent post-money evaluation indicated that it is now worth more than US$160 million.

In September of 2016, PullString released the Author platform. This helps marketers in creating their own text-based chatbots. In December of the same year, they added the ability to create voice-based skills for Amazon’s Alexa.

In the fall of 2017, PullString launched Converse. It was a platform for creating voice apps for Alexa by non-technical users. During that time, it was known as one of the most comprehensive and intelligent platforms for this purpose.

If Google has Google Assistant, Microsoft has Cortana, and Amazon has Alexa, Apple has Siri. Among these voice assistants, Siri has come to third place only. This is the reason why Apple has decided to purchase PullString. Siri has been lagging behind its rivals and voice apps or ‘voice’ is the next big thing in the tech market. With the acquisition, Siri is forecast to improve on its development and relevance in the market, finally catching up with competitors. Apple pioneered in voice-enabled technology more than seven years ago.

PullString is also expected to rise up in the market after a steady fall in sales.

Apple’s Acquisitions

It is worth noting that Apple frequently buys companies, often small ones, and use them in different ways. In fact, Apple bought more than 100 companies over the years. And after their purchase, the tech giant absorbs some of the industry skills that these companies have contributed.

Here are a few examples:

  1. Akonia Holographics - Apple bought Akonia Holographics, a company that makes lenses for Augmented Reality (AR) smart glasses in August 2018. According to analysts, Apple has been looking for a share in the AR tech market. An AR headset is reported to come out in 2020.
  2. Texture - Apple also bought Texture, an award-winning app that allowed Apple to launch a subscription service to over 200 magazines a month. Apple acquired the company in March 2018.
  3. Silk Labs - Apple reportedly acquired Silk Labs early 2018. The machine learning company is, according to analysts, a natural fit for Apple’s approach to AI which is centered on privacy. Silk Labs developed on-device machine learning services, which allows for the processing of data without sending it to the cloud. This allows Apple to enhance users’ privacy.
  4. PowerbyProxi - Apple also bought the New Zealand-based company, PowerbyProxi, for an undisclosed sum. The company was founded in 2007 and specializes in small, Qi-standard modules. The technology allows for wireless power transfer to larger devices. With the AirPower expected to be released this year, the wireless charging company may allow power-hungry devices like the MacBook and other Apple devices to be charged in one device simultaneously. Apple acquired the company in 2017.
  5. Init.ai - This developer platform enables its users to design and develop language conversational mobile applications. According to reports, Apple acqui-hired (a word that refers to buying out of a company for the skills and expertise of the staff, rather than for the product or service they offer) the team to work on Siri. With Apple’s move to build up its Artificial Intelligence technology, the company is expected to bring natural language and machine learning expertise into the tech giant.