Microsoft acquires Wand Labs

Microsoft has acquired Wand, a chat app for iOS, to further chief Satya Nadella's vision of chat as a computing platform, for an undisclosed sum.

The Wand team would join Bing's engineering and platform group, corporate vice president David Ku wrote in a post announcing the deal today. The company's team members would  work with Microsoft to enable the creation of intelligent chatbots and virtual assistants.

According to commentators, the development comes as a natural extension for Wand, which had been working since 2013 on apps that allowed users chat with one another and add outside information from sources like Yelp. Users can share music and allow other people access their smart home devices using Wand, too.

Though the company had conducted private trials of its service, it had not released it to consumers.

Wand's features fitted well with Microsoft's overall vision for conversational interaction between humans and computers, which it showed off at its Build conference earlier this year, with bots representing businesses in order to complete tasks like booking a hotel room.

Ku said the Wand team's expertise on a variety of topics, including third-party developer integration, semantics, and conversational interfaces, were reasons for the company to join Microsoft.

According to commentators, Microsoft's acquisition of Wand Labs showed the company was serious about developing "conversational intelligence." They add this was one area of Office 365, Cortana and Bing might find indispensable in this age where human language was continuously being used to drive artificial intelligence.

"This acquisition accelerates our vision and strategy for Conversation as a Platform," wrote Ku in the blog post.

Search engines and virtual assistants are increasingly relying on semantic nuances of people's queries and voice commands, but these human-to-machine and machine-to-human interfaces, based on language, presented the challenge of making the ''conversation'' smarter and more natural.

Wand Labs would be expected to address that challenge.