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Wheelings & Dealings: Instant Messaging Client Emu Acquired by Google

August 07, 2014

Emu has been described as texting with a built-in assistant. That is because it has a Siri-like virtual assistant. This allows you to schedule appointments, share your location with others and set reminders for yourself. What is really interesting is Emu only concluded its beta testing cycle earlier this year.

Here are a few other interesting facts; Emu was founded in 2012 by Gummi Hafsteinsson. If you are not familiar with the name, he was formerly vice president of product for Apple’s (News - Alert) Siri and a senior product manager at Google. Another co-founder of Emu is Dave Feldman. His credentials include AOL, Yahoo and TechCrunch. Feldman helped design Yahoo Messenger for Windows and for the iPhone (News - Alert). The startup raised $1.5 million in venture capital.

Impressive resumes from the co-founders, however, if you were to go to the Emu site today, you would see the following posted;

Image via Emu

That is because Google (News - Alert) has acquired the virtual assistant text messaging app. The site goes on to say that the Emu team is “super excited” and it is now time for them to focus on the next chapter of their existence. On August 25, 2014 the Emu app will officially shut down.

It has been said that what makes Emu stand apart from other texting services is this platform relies on artificial intelligence, or machine learning and natural language processing, to perform all of these tasks in real-time as quickly as one can share a photo via text. Of course, the two co-founders are the ones who have said this.

Google Now is an intelligent personal assistant available within the Google Search mobile application for Android (News - Alert) and iOS operating systems. You can also use it with the Google Chrome web browser on your computer. Google Now uses a natural language user interface to answer questions, make recommendations and perform actions by delegating requests to a set of web services. It does seem that Emu would fall nicely into this category.

In a blog post, the Emu team said “Emu understands the content and context of messages and magically adds relevant information to help you get things done. Wondering whether you’re free for lunch on Friday? Emu brings your schedule directly into the conversation. Running late to pick up your daughter? Don’t describe where you are; Emu can share your location with a single click and update it as you get closer.”

The “magic reply” feature can also be used to keep you safe. For instance, if you are driving, the magic reply option can be used to tell people who are texting you that you are driving and cannot reply to them. I think that this is a very smart feature.

TechCrunch described Emu as “at heart an IM client, but it differentiated itself from the crowded market with smart features that incorporated a virtual assistant not unlike Siri to automate tasks based on your conversations – meaning you could do things like schedule appointments to your calendar, set reminders and even make reservations at a restaurant directly from your conversations.”

TechCrunch also sees messaging as a new mobile battleground for big tech companies and a potential motivating factor in attracting and keeping users within a particular ecosystem. Not only are more companies developing messaging apps to work across the various OS platforms, companies such as Apple are also focusing on features such as iMessage in both its mobile and computer platforms.

Similar to the way email is considered to be the headquarters for desktop computing, meaning that everything pretty much transpires through email, messaging can be seen as the HQ of mobile devices. The combination of so much functionality in the Emu app could be used as a tool to further progress what messaging can offer through your mobile device as you are constantly on the go.

Unfortunately, to date, we have no information concerning the financial details of the acquisition. 




Edited by Maurice Nagle

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