Google buys messaging assistant Emu, shuts it down

Emu scoured messages to help users with tasks like buying tickets and making dinner reservations

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
August 6, 2014
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/3883

Google has purchased smart messaging assistant Emu, it was announced on Emu's homepage Wednesday. No financial terms of the deal were disclosed, but it was revealed that, as a result of the purchase, Emu will be shutting down.

While the company wrote that it is "super-excited" to be joining Google, that also means that in order "to focus on our next chapter, we have to close the last one."  As, Emu will be removed from the App Store on August 25th.

"We know it’s an inconvenience, and we regret that," Emu wrote. 

Founded in 2012 by veterans of Siri, Apple, Google, TechCrunch, and Yahoo! Messenger, Emu used artificial intelligence, including machine learning and natural language processing, to browse messages, and then assist users based on what they had written.

For example, if someone sends a text to their friend about going to see a movie, Emu would be able to process that information and then bring up information about movie times and local theaters. Or if the person were making dinner plans, the app would recommend local restaurants.

The app worked a lot like Google Now, the company's answer to Apple's Siri personal assistant, which recognizes repeated actions that a user performs on their device, such as common locations, repeated calendar appointments, and search queries, in order to display more relevant information to the user.

Google doesn't seem to have been too interested in Emu's technology as much as its team. While its not currently clear what the team will be working on, perhaps Google was interested in mining their expertise in machine learning, which will help Google Now find information at a faster rate.

There is also speculation that Google could start incorporating some of Emu's features into Hangouts, its instant messaging and video chat platform.

Emu raised seed funding of $1.5M from Kleiner Perkins, TriplePoint Capital, Menlo Ventures, DFJ, and additional angel investors.

A Google spokesperson would only confirm that the Emu team is joining Google, but would not share any other details about the deal.

Google's 2014 purchases

Google has been on a bit of a spending spree so far this year, picking up a total of 22 companies altogether. Here is the complete list:

The first company it purchased was Bitspin, the Zurich-based maker of the Timely clock app. That was followed by: cyber security Impermium; artificial intelligence company Deepmind; sound authentication firm SlickLogin; ad fraud detector Spider.io; Android game developer Green Throttle Games; drone manufacturer Titan Aerospace; back-end online retail solution Rangespan; ad attribution company Adometry; restaurant website builder Appetas; cloud monitoring service StackdriverQuest Visual, the company behind translation service Word Lens; mobile device manager Divide; satellite maker Skybox;  video advertising company mDialog; wireless-communications startup Alpental Technologies; performance optimization platform Appurify; and playlist generator Songza.

And, of course, the company bought smart thermostat company Nest Labs for $3.2 billion, the most the company has ever spent on a startup acquisition. Nest has since bought two startups of its own to add to the Google family: energy monitoring platform MyEnergy and video-monitoring and security startup Dropcam.

(Image source: emu.is)