Facebook acquires AI assistant startup Ozlo

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Facebook has acquired AI assistant startup Ozlo to help build “compelling experiences within Messenger that are powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning,” a Facebook spokesperson has confirmed to VentureBeat. A brief note on the acquisition and plans to join the Messenger team was also shared on the Ozlo website.

As part of the acquisition, Facebook will receive Ozlo’s tech and its team of about 30 employees, and Ozlo will shut down its apps and API services, according to Recode. This is the second time Ozlo founder Charles Jolley will be a Facebook employee — he worked as head of platform at Facebook from 2011 to 2013.

The Ozlo app for iOS and the web launched in October 2016 and was powered by an AI assistant of the same name. Ozlo initially focused on helping users sift through restaurant listings in a conversational format.

Ozlo offerings eventually expanded to include restaurants that serve foods for people with strict dietary restrictions, weather forecasts, and more local business services like movie listings. Similar to other assistants, Ozlo began to leverage APIs from apps like Yelp, Doordash, and others. In March, Ozlo started offering its own APIs.

The news comes a week after DigiTimes reported that Facebook is working on its own smart speaker to rival Amazon’s Echo and Apple’s HomePod.

A report by The Information earlier this year found that about 7 in 10 interactions intelligent assistant M had in private beta testing required intervention by a human, so instead of M acting as an assistant like Alexa or Siri, the first public iteration of Facebook’s intelligent assistant was M Suggestions.

Based on words used in a conversation, M can suggest that you create a calendar event, or hail a ride from Lyft or Uber. Earlier this month, M learned how to recommend recipes from Food Network’s bot, only the second use of M to recommend a bot experience.

Jolley created Ozlo together with Mike Hanson in 2014. The company is based in Palo Alto, California.

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