The company behind the popular Pinterest image-sharing Web site is pinning its own interest on the emerging world of predictive keyboards. Pinterest Inc. announced this week that it has bought portions of the company behind the smart keyboard app Fleksy. Under the terms of the deal, about half of Fleksy’s staff will join Pinterest, including founder and CEO Kosta Eleftheriou. The intellectual property underlying the technology behind the Fleksy keyboard was not part of the transaction. No other details about the transaction were released.
"It’s a bit of nostalgic timing as this month marks four years since Fleksy first launched in the iOS store as a standalone app for our wonderful community of blind users -- at a time when 3rd party keyboards were not yet supported on the platform," Fleksy wrote on its blog.
Pinterest didn't specifically say what kind of potential applications it might have in mind for the Fleksy team, but it did indicate that the Fleksy team might help it build its visual search engine via Fleksy's expertise in mobile engineering.
"Pinterest is intensely focused on refining the mobile experiences that make it possible to flow effortlessly through our catalog of ideas -- on any device, any place in the world," stated Scott Goodson, Pinterest’s head of core experience. "The Fleksy team is made up of truly noteworthy engineers and world experts in their areas. These technical artists have a history of developing architecturally innovative, highly optimized software."
While it has gained fame as a web and mobile application company that operates a photo sharing Web site, Pinterest has recently shown some interest in encouraging business applications for its service. It recently introduced Pinterest Ads Manager, which lets companies target customers via emails or mobile ad IDs, previous visits and so-called lookalike targeting, which lets companies reach larger group of people who look and act similar to the company's audience.
Founded in 2011, Fleksy makes a third-party virtual keyboard extension and input method for touchscreen devices. The idea behind the app is to improve traditional tap-typing input speed and accuracy via auto-correct and gesture control. The app's technology uses error-correcting algorithms that analyze the region from where the user touches the keyboard and feeds that data into a language model that calculates and identifies the intended word. Swiping gestures can be used for such common functions as space and delete.
The Fleksy app reached its widest audience when it was released for use on Android devices, letting users of both iOS and Android operating systems personalize their devices' keyboards and increase their typing speed. So far, the Fleksy app has already been downloaded 12 million times.
Eleftheriou said the Fleksy's team will continue working on so-called intuitive content-discovery experiences for mobile devices. According to reports, some of the app's accessibility components for visually impaired users will be open-sourced before too long.
Hot Competition for Predictive Typing
Fleksy's main competitors in the predictive typing arena include SwiftKey and Swype. SwiftKey was in the news in March, when Microsoft acquired the smartphone-keyboard developer for a reported $240 million.
The Swype app is developed by Nuance Communications, who just this week announced an offering of $300 million in senior notes to raise funds for working capital and also, it reported, "to fund possible investments in and acquisitions of complementary businesses, products or technologies."