Yahoo buys natural language seach provider SkyPhrase

Steven Loeb · December 2, 2013 · Short URL:

SkyPhrase allows users to ask their computers questions using everyday speak

Yahoo purchased SkyPhrase, a provider of natural language processing technology, it was announced in a short blog post on Monday.

No financial terms of the deal were disclosed, but it was revealed that the four-person team from SkyPhrase will be joining the Yahoo Labs team in New York City.

"In Yahoo, we have found a company that not only shares our vision, but delivers a rich collection of information and services to a massive user base," SkyPhrase wrote in a separate post on its homepage.

"We are excited to join Yahoo Labs to continue to work on our shared vision of making computers deeply understand people's natural language and intentions. We can’t wait to take things to the next level together."

Founded in 2011, SkyPhrase has been focused on enablishing a way for computers to understand "more complex and precise human language."

"We believe online information and services would be much more powerful and user friendly if people could tell computers what they want to accomplish using natural language," the company says.

Basically, it allows people to ask their questions to their computer without having to learn and use a complicated interface.

SkyPhrase raised some seed funding from investors that included Han Huang and Breakout Labs, a project of the Thiel Foundation.

In October, the company launched two new Web agents: one for Google analytics, and the other for fantasy sports. 

SkyPhrase for Google Analytics allowed users to answer questions about their Web traffic without needing to learn and use a complicated interface, while SkyPhrase Sports answered questions about fantasy football statistics.

How exactly Yahoo will use this technology is unclear right now, but TechCrunch is speculating that it will be using the second of those Web agents in order to help Yahoo advance its fantasy sports offerings.

This would make a certain amount of sense, given that Yahoo has been making improvements to its fantasy sports apps in recent months.

In July, Yahoo first updated its Yahoo Sport app, with new features that included a curated list of local experts and writers live tweeting up-to-the minute stats and plays, and more content from the Yahoo Sports editorial team, plus additional local content for a users favorite teams.   

The same month, the company acquired fantasy sports app Bignoggins, a production company that developed two apps: Fantasy Monster and Draft Monster. Fantasy Monster allows users to manage multiple fantasy sports teams from a single app by aggregating all fantasy sports and providers.]

Yahoo said at the time that it would be integrating the Bignoggins technology into its Yahoo Fantasy experience over the coming months.

So, with SkyPhrase Sports, users could easily ask questions like "How does Peyton Manning compare to Tom Brady?" or Show me injuries for the Baltimore Ravens" and quickly get answers without having to pour over statistics or visit a slew of sights to get updates.

SkyPhrase Sports also featured custom real-time and daily alerts. So, for example, an user could set an alert for whenever Tom Brady threw a touchdown pass.

Of course, there are many different areas that such technology could be used, beyond just fantasy sports, and it will be very interesting to see how Yahoo chooses to implement it going forward, though the company is keeping a tight lip on that right now.

"We can’t talk specifics just yet, but the team will be focused on building Yahoo experiences," a Yahoo spokesperson told VatorNews.

VatorNews also reached out to SkyPhrase for more information about the deal. We will update if we learn more. 

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