Language Technologies: Zoom acquires KIT spin-off kites


Zoom Video Communications, based in the USA, acquires kites GmbH, a spin-off from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), which is dedicated to the development of real-time machine translation (MT) solutions. Zoom announced this this afternoon (June 29, 2021). In addition, Zoom will invest in further research work at the Karlsruhe location and is also considering setting up an R&D center in Germany.

“The corona pandemic has made the enormous importance of ICT technologies for our working world and our everyday life clear. For many years, the KIT scientists have been researching suitable language technologies that are successfully used by the kite team, ”says Professor Holger Hanselka, President of KIT. “The fact that Zoom is now taking over this spin-off and driving the expansion of the team in Karlsruhe is a logical step in order to make these promising solutions accessible to a wider public. Zoom’s investment in further research in Karlsruhe is a great gain for KIT, the city and the entire Karlsruhe region. “

“A core task of the KIT is the development of applications for economy and society on the basis of scientific knowledge. This is exactly what kites GmbH did – with impressive success. It is a very good example of the innovation activity of our researchers, ”adds Professor Thomas Hirth, Vice President for Innovation and International Affairs at KIT. “These solutions can promote international understanding, strengthen networking and overcome borders.”

The two Kites co-founders, Professor Alexander Waibel and Dr. Sebastian Stüker, work on sustainable products that automatically process natural and spontaneous language using artificial intelligence methods. They founded Kites in 2015 with the aim of translating the results of their research into real applications. The company’s fields of activity include automatic speech recognition, machine translation, language assistance, technical support for human interpreters and simultaneous language translation. The kite team consists of twelve researchers and will support the Zoom engineering team in the future. Together, they aim to advance machine translation and provide multilingual translation capabilities to make Zoom meetings more productive and efficient for Zoom users.

“We founded kites with the aim of breaking down language barriers and making cross-language interaction an integral part of our daily lives. We have valued Zoom for a long time for its ability to easily connect people all over the world, ”says Alexander Waibel, Professor of Computer Science at KIT and co-founder of kites. “We are convinced that Zoom is the best partner for kites to achieve our goals. We look forward to driving our developments forward together with Zoom as a real driver of innovation. “

“Our main interest is to translate our know-how into workable products that automatically process natural language. Our technologies are especially geared towards real-time applications, ”explains Sebastian Stüker, founder and CEO of kites and head of the junior research group Multilingual Speech Recognition at KIT. “These enable, for example, automatic, simultaneous language translation, implemented as software-as-a-service, or automatic subtitling of videos in many languages. That makes them ideal for the services of Zoom. “

The work of Waibel and Stüker is based, among other things, on the Lecture Translator they developed, which has been overcoming language barriers for international students since 2012 with the simultaneous translation of lectures at KIT.

Stüker and the Kites employees will keep the company headquarters in Karlsruhe, where Zoom wants to invest in expanding the team. In addition, Zoom is considering setting up an R&D center in Germany. Alexander Waibel is set to become a Zoom Research Fellow, a role in which he will advise Zoom’s MT research and development.

As a “Research University in the Helmholtz Association”, KIT creates and imparts knowledge for society and the environment. The aim is to make significant contributions to the global challenges in the areas of energy, mobility and information. Around 9,600 employees work together in a wide variety of disciplines in the natural sciences, engineering, economics, humanities and social sciences. The KIT prepares its 23,300 students with research-oriented courses for responsible tasks in society, economy and science. Innovation efforts at KIT build a bridge between important scientific findings and their application for the benefit of society, economic prosperity and the preservation of our natural foundations of life. KIT is one of the German universities of excellence.


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