Zoom is about to tear down the language barrier

man on video call with colleagues
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Video conferencing company Zoom has revealed it is set to acquire live translation startup Kites GmbH for an undisclosed fee.

The company will help develop machine translation (MT) solutions that allow Zoom users to communicate in real-time with colleagues and partners from around the world, irrespective of the languages they speak.

“We are continuously looking for new ways to deliver happiness to our users and improve meeting productivity, and MT solutions will be key in enhancing our platform for Zoom customers across the globe,” said Velchamy Sankarlingam, President of Product and Engineering at Zoom.

“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.”

Zoom acquisition

Kites was founded in 2015 by two academics from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, Dr. Alex Waibel and Dr. Sebastian Stüker. The company’s small twelve-person team will be integrated into the Zoom engineering department, but will continue its work on advancing machine translation technology.

“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,” said Waibel and Stüker.

“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.”

The work of Kites will expand upon an existing Zoom feature, called Simultaneous Interpretations, that allows businesses to arrange for live human translators to join meetings in the background. The feature dials down the volume of the speaker and dials up the volume of the translator, allowing for near real-time communication between speakers of different languages.

Although no explicit promises have been made, the Kites acquisition will presumably pave the way for the introduction of translated live captions, bypassing the need to bring in a human interpreter.

The move will also extend the gap to rival service Microsoft Teams, which currently offers neither in-built live caption translation, nor a feature comparable to Simultaneous Interpretations.

Joel Khalili
News and Features Editor

Joel Khalili is the News and Features Editor at TechRadar Pro, covering cybersecurity, data privacy, cloud, AI, blockchain, internet infrastructure, 5G, data storage and computing. He's responsible for curating our news content, as well as commissioning and producing features on the technologies that are transforming the way the world does business.