Google has acquired customer service automation startup Onward for an undisclosed sum. According to reports, Onward Co-founders Rémi Cossart and Pramod Thammaiah, as well as CTO Aaron Podolny, will be joining Google as part of the deal.
"With Google, we’ll be able to expand the reach of the technologies that power Onward," the company wrote in a blog post. "These core technologies are what got us excited in the first place, and we are excited to bring them to Google. We’d like to thank our clients, investors, friends and family — it’s with your support that we’ve reached this moment. The next chapter will let the Onward team and technology truly shine, and we’re excited to continue to make progress [toward] our vision."
Launched in 2015, San Francisco-based Onward was started to allow computers to participate in natural, human conversations and answer simple questions. For harder queries, the company created a visual bot builder to allow users to quickly build chat decision trees that could address their customers’ requests and know when to pass on the question to a human.
"Throughout this journey, we’ve remained focused on unlocking the magical experiences that are possible when computers understand the subtleties hidden in a user’s actions and messages," according to the blog post.
These acquisitions mesh with Google's strategy of bringing more artificial intelligence (AI) to its technology offering. In July, the company announced it is launching a new initiative, the People + AI Research (PAIR) initiative to study how humans and robots interact. With that understanding, researchers will be able to re-orient AI systems to enable people and machines to help each other. PAIR will look at new possibilities for AI applications, and opportunities for making the technology more inclusive.