Yahoo Acquires Natural Language Processing Company SkyPhrase To Help Drive Intent Identification

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Yahoo has acquired SkyPhrase, a startup that builds natural language processing technology, the company revealed today in a blog post. SkyPhrase will join Yahoo’s New York office, according to that company’s site, and will work with Yahoo to help continue its goal of “making computers deeply understand people’s natural language and intentions.”

Back in October, we covered SkyPhrase, and noted specifically that its NLP tech could be used to advance fantasy sports, which is of course an area where Yahoo excels and has a considerable investment already. The company has created an app that makes it easy for fantasy football players to search through stats and find only those relevant to making picks and monitoring their team, which would be very handy integrated directly into Yahoo’s fantasy sports products.

Back when Rip spoke to SkyPhrase founder and CEO Nick Cassimatis in October, the entrepreneur and cognitive scientist said that what he really hoped to accomplish with the company was to make NLP tech useful to as much of the world as possible via tailoring it to specific verticals in a way that’s easy for everyday users to access, and to make it easier for third-party partners to build NLP-powered interfaces for their own products, data and services.

Now, SkyPhrase and its team will likely be focused more on helping improve Yahoo products, rather than building a tech that’s aimed at giving third-party players more access to refined NLP tech. Some examples of what specifically it’s already been able to do include building queries that provide custom notifications whenever a certain action is triggered, such as when a certain player scores a touchdown, which is directly applicable to Yahoo’s fantasy sports products as mentioned above, but it can also be used to conduct similar types of queries around complex data sets like website analytics.

Viewed in light of Yahoo’s previous acquisitions, including Summly, the product picture becomes quite clear: Yahoo is focused on tailoring its content delivery to a modern mobile audience, which is becoming increasingly used to devices that respond to conversational queries, and which has less patience and time for longer form content. NLP tech can help with both those aims, and SkyPhrase was likely a good option because part of its existing focus was in a field where Yahoo already leads and would do well to shore up its existing advantages.