Microsoft Buys SwiftKey, Company That Predicts What You Want to Type

PHOTO: An image from the iPhone version of SwiftKey.SwiftKey
An image from the iPhone version of SwiftKey.

Microsoft is diving head first into the world of artificial intelligence with its acquisition of SwiftKey, the company behind a popular keyboard app that uses predictive technology that knows what users want to say and in turn, helps them save keystrokes and type more efficiently.

SwiftKey's technology is already in more than 300 million of iOS and Android devices with its keyboard apps, according to Microsoft. The company did not disclose the terms of the deal. However, it's been reported to be around $250 million.

"Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more," SwiftKey co-founders Jon Reynolds and Ben Medlock wrote in a blog post. "Our mission is to enhance interaction between people and technology. We think these are a perfect match, and we believe joining Microsoft is the right next stage in our journey."

Since SwiftKey's founding eight years ago, the founders said the technology has saved users an estimated 10 trillion keystrokes across 100 different languages. They quantified that as more than 100,000 years of saved time that would have otherwise been spent typing.

SwiftKey's technology has even been used to help cosmologist Stephen Hawking.

Intel upgraded his speech system in 2014 and said it was able to increase the efficiency of Hawking's system by integrating SwiftKey's predictive text technology. The software knows Hawking's communication patterns, meaning he has to type less than 20 percent of all characters to convey what he wants to say.

Hawking's existing cheek sensor syncs with a switch on his glasses, allowing him to choose characters he wishes to type, which can then be processed by his speech synthesizer and spoken out loud from his Lenovo laptop.

Microsoft Executive Vice President Harry Shum said the company would share details "in the coming months" about how they plan to use SwiftKey's technology into its Word Flow keyboard. However, he also said the acquisition is about moving forward with Microsoft's ambitions to create artificially intelligent systems that can help people and increase productivity.

"We’ll continue to develop SwiftKey’s market-leading keyboard apps for Android and iOS as well as explore scenarios for the integration of the core technology across the breadth of our product and services portfolio," he wrote. "Moreover, SwiftKey’s predictive technology aligns with Microsoft’s investments and ambition to develop intelligent systems that can work more on the user’s behalf and under their control."