Cisco acquires AI firm MindMeld to create more natural conversations

Cisco has announced its intent to acquire MindMeld, a privately held artificial intelligence (AI) provider based in San Francisco, for $125 million (£97m).

MindMeld offers what is described as a unique AI platform which ‘enables customers to build intelligent and human-like conversational interfaces for any application or device’ – in other words, enabling more natural conversation with voice and chat assistants.

“At Cisco, we believe that AI and machine learning will play an increasingly vital role across all parts of our business,” the company wrote in a post announcing the news. “Cisco is unlocking capabilities through AI that were unthinkable in the past – for example, empowering our customers to self-manage their network and data centre, stay ahead of security attacks, embed intelligence at the edge, deliver predictive analytics, and revolutionise the workplace.”

The MindMeld team will join the cloud collaboration group at Cisco, led by Jens Meggers, senior vice president of Cisco’s collaboration team.

“The rise of messaging apps, and the conversational bots which have followed, have given us a tremendous number of bots which are impressively bad at natural language conversation,” wrote Rowan Trollope, SVP of Cisco’s IoT applications division in a blog post. “They do okay with canned responses, but try to have a semi-unstructured conversation to get them to do something and the experience tends to be poor, frustrating and decidedly non-human.

“Bringing the MindMeld team to Cisco is a giant leap forward in helping our customers experience the next generation of interactive, conversational interfaces.”

The acquisition is expected to close in the fourth quarter of Cisco’s 2017 financial year.

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