Maluuba, the TC Disrupt finalist and Android-based Siri competitor today has unveiled a major new platform play, via its natural language processing (NLP) API for app developers. The Maluuba team believes that NLP is the next logical interface for use across any category of app, just like keyboards, buttons and touch points have been before it, and this API is designed to help them take an early lead in providing those services.
The API means that app builders can easily integrated support for NLP queries and commands into their products, so that a Yelp could offer users a text entry or voice-powered search that returns accurate results for “Find me good Chinese places nearby,” for instance, or weather apps can field queries like “How cold is it outside right now in Chicago?” Out of the box, Maluuba’s API works with typed text entry from users, but it can also be paired with speech recognition APIs from Google Voice or Nuance to complete the equation for fielding spoken word requests.
“We really feel like this the first step in something that’s going to be incredible,” Maluuba plaform lead Phil Tregenza explained in an interview. “We’ve got essentially Siri-level accuracy, and we’re now opening up to the general public. So now anyone who wants to build their own application using something with Siri or higher level accuracy can do it.”
That’s a big development, because unlike Maluuba, there’s little chance we’ll ever see Apple open up access to Siri in ways that make it possible for any developer to leverage its power however they see fit. And for now, Maluuba is hand-picking its initial API partners, in part because limiting access at the beginning lets them control how their tech gets shown off and received by the public, but eventually, the plan is to make it readily available to all. But the more users they can get working on the platform, the better for Maluuba’s API in the long-term.
“We want to know that people who are using it are going to be using it in a good use case, they’re going to be using it properly, and it’s not going to hurt our brand,” Maluuba CTO Jashua Pantony told me. “But as we expand it out, and as more and more people use it, our system will also be gaining more and more data, and we should be able to handle a greater variety of use. Basically, our accuracy will increase as more people use the API.”
Improved performance will also benefit Maluuba’s own standalone Android app, which the company says will continue to be a core focus going forward, even as it builds the platform side of its business. Maluuba the product and its API will enjoy a synergistic relationship, the startup believes, with improvements on one side leading to benefits and advances on the other. One exciting upcoming development that the Maluuba team is planning is the introduction of shopping categories, to make NLP ecommerce and retail applications very easy to create and enhance.
As for how much using Maluuba’s API will cost developers, it’ll be evaluated on a case-by-case need basis, and the team will initially be helping developer partners get started on the platform for free. After they get a better idea of usage requirements, they’ll set up pricing based on volume and demand, a model which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s worked with API partners in the past.
Overall, the future for Waterloo-based Maluuba is looking very bright, and I think that’ll be even more apparent once we see the first fruits of this API release in terms of what kind of apps developers use it to create.