Twitter buys Magic Pony to enhance live video capabilities

Steven Loeb · June 20, 2016 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/4623

The Magic Pony team will join Twitter Cortex in London; the deal is reportedly worth $150M

One of Twitter's biggest bets over the last year and a half has been in live video, starting with its purchase of Periscope in 2015, which has now grown to over 200 million broadcasts, and over 110 years of live video watched every day, and with deals that include the right to stream NFL games online. 

Twitter has some major competition in this area, most notably from Facebook, but also from established video platforms like YouTube, and up-and-comers like Snapchat. So the key to success has to be not only giving users the best content, but the best video experience along with it.

With that in mind, the company picked up Magic Pony on Monday, a company that uses machine learning to enhance visual processing. While no financial terms of the deal have been disclosed, TechCrunch is pegging the price at $150 million

Rob Bishop, Magic Pony's CEO and co-founder, will be working out of Twitter's headquarters in San Francisco, while his fellow co-founder Zehan Wang, and the other members of the 14-person Magic Pony team, will join Twitter's office in London.

Going forward, the employees of Magic Pony will be working on Twitter Cortex, which Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey called, in a blog post, "a team of engineers, data scientists, and machine learning researchers dedicated to building a product in which people can easily find new experiences to share and participate in."

It isn't clear what product he is referring to here, but it seems likely he is talking about live video.

"Magic Pony’s technology – based on research by the team to create algorithms that can understand the features of imagery – will be used to enhance our strength in live and video and opens up a whole lot of exciting creative possibilities for Twitter," said Dorsey.

"We are continuing to build strength into our deep learning teams with world-class talent to help Twitter be the best place to see what’s happening and why it matters, first. We value deep learning research to help make our world better, and we will keep doing our part to share our work and learnings with the community."

While Twitter incorporates Magic Pony's technology and team, the company itself seems to be gearing up for the future, and using its expertise on a much larger scale. 

"Together with Twitter, we're looking forward to vastly accelerating our rate of research; growing our team, which will serve as the European homebase for Twitter's machine learning efforts; and continuing to publish," Magic Pony wrote in a note on its homepage.

"We've barely scratched the surface of what we think is possible in this area and are excited to see what the future holds."

Founded 18 months ago, Magic Pony had raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Entrepreneur First. 

This isn't Twitter's first investment in machine learning. In July 2014, it bought deep learning startup Madbits, and in June of last year it purchased Whetlab, another London-based machine learning startup.

VatorNews reached out to Magic Pony for more details on the acquisition. We will update this story if we learn more.

(Image source: suwalls.com)

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Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from Twitter.com, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

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Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

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In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within Twitter.com, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

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