Google's new acquisition makes building chatbots easier

API.ai provides services to help developers build intelligent, interactive services

150817 google headquarters 3

A building at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California, on August 17, 2015.

Credit: Martyn Williams

Google took a shot at Facebook's chatbot-building services on Monday with its acquisition of API.ai, a company that helps developers build and improve conversational interfaces for their services. 

API.ai has more than 60,000 developers using its platform to create conversational user interfaces for apps like Slack, Facebook Messenger and Kik. Its tools make it easier for programs to parse human language and translate it into action. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The company offers a vast suite of capabilities for natural language understanding, including pre-defined knowledge packages known as Domains, which make it easier for assistants to understand a variety of common requests any additional coding.

In addition to its offerings for developers, API.ai also operates Assistant, an intelligent chatbot of its own that has more than 40 million users.

"Joining Google will allow us to accelerate improvements to the platform and service our growing developer community in ways we’ve always dreamed," API.ai CEO Ilya Gelfenbeyn said in a press release. "With Google’s knowledge, infrastructure and support, we can make sure you get access to the best available technologies and developments in AI and machine learning."

Google is no stranger to creating natural language interfaces. The company recently launched a Cloud Natural Language API that lets users take advantage of natural language parsing capabilities built at Google.

The news comes a few months after Google announced Ello, an upcoming chat app that will let users bring bots into a conversation alongside human participants. The app isn't available yet, but API.ai may give developers an added incentive to build for it.

Technology titans have been investing heavily in developing tools for building chatbots. Facebook acquired Wit.ai last year to provide similar functionality for its own bot-building capabilities. On Sunday, Oracle announced new tools for building bots across a variety of chat services, too.

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