Nand Kishor Contributor

Nand Kishor is the Product Manager of House of Bots. After finishing his studies in computer science, he ideated & re-launched Real Estate Business Intelligence Tool, where he created one of the leading Business Intelligence Tool for property price analysis in 2012. He also writes, research and sharing knowledge about Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Data Science, Big Data, Python Language etc... ...

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Nand Kishor is the Product Manager of House of Bots. After finishing his studies in computer science, he ideated & re-launched Real Estate Business Intelligence Tool, where he created one of the leading Business Intelligence Tool for property price analysis in 2012. He also writes, research and sharing knowledge about Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Data Science, Big Data, Python Language etc...

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Cisco picks up pioneering chatbot startup MindMeld for $125M

By Nand Kishor |Email | May 12, 2017 | 5664 Views

After dabbling with the technology here and there over the past few quarters, Cisco Systems Inc. is shifting its chatbot push into high gear.

The networking giant today announced that it's buying MindMeld Inc., an artificial intelligence startup founded by former MIT researcher Tim Tuttle, for $125 million. The deal buys Cisco a chatbot development toolkit that is described as one of the most versatile on the market.

Mindmeld's platform provides the ability to create virtual assistants for a variety of tasks ranging from answering product-related questions to online shopping. One of the demonstration videos on its site showcases a flight booking bot, while another highlights a voice interface for finding restaurants. MindMeld founder Tim Tuttle told SiliconANGLE last May that because of the unique data and requirements of each industry and even each business, MindMeld has to train its machine learning models for each customer. "Our goal is to provide the technology stack," he said.

The startup claims that its toolkit can provide a better user experience in each area than artificial intelligence created using competing services. In practice, this means that the technology is capable of handling a broader range of requests.

The flight booking bot that MindMeld showcases on its site, for instance, can understand when a user wants to travel even if they use shorthand like "sat" instead of "Saturday." Cisco probably doesn't have much interest in flight booking, but there are plenty of other areas where it could apply the technology.

At the top of the list is collaboration. Rob Salvagno, the head of Cisco's mergers and acquisitions team, wrote in a blog post that MindMeld's platform will  be used develop new bots for its Spark team communications service. Offering more extensions could help the company better compete with Slack Inc., which has thousands of assistants in its catalog, as well as Atlassian Inc. and other smaller players.

Another segment where the acquisition may yield dividends for Cisco is the unified communications market. The company sells an extensive set of online meetings tools that could benefit from MindMeld's voice support, which provides the ability to create Siri-like assistants. Moreover, Cisco could integrate chatbots into its contact center automation software to help customers reduce the load on their human service representations.

Cisco has been experimenting with AI for a couple of years now, demonstrating a conversational personal assistant called Monica last June, independent unified communications analyst Dave Michels said in a blog post today. But he said that didn't seem to go anywhere. "Cisco needs a conversational AI to power things like Spark Bot, Spark Care Bot, and 1000 other other bots that will emerge," he said.

The deal's hefty price tag would suggest that the company plans to make the most of the acquisition. It represents a respectable exit for MindMeld's backers, who poured about $15 million into its coffers since 2011. Incidentally, the investor roster includes Google, which similarly bought its way into the chatbot development market last year by acquiring a competitor.

As part of today's agreement, Tuttle and his team will join Cisco's Cloud Collaboration group to form a new "Cognitive Collaboration" unit. The transaction is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter. Read More


Source: siliconANGLE