Swiftkey, a company that has developed smart predictive keyboard software that makes typing on smartphones easier, has been sold to Microsoft for £174m.
The technology, based on artificial intelligence algorithms that learn overtime the user’s writing patterns, has been described as revolutionary. Founded by two Cambridge graduates in 2008, Swiftkey has grown from a side-project to one of the hottest technology start-ups, with the technology currently used on more than 300 million mobile devices worldwide.
"We love SwiftKey's technology,” said Microsoft's executive vice president of technology and research Harry Shum.
"That's why today I'm excited to welcome the company's employees to Microsoft. We believe that together we can achieve orders of magnitude greater scale than either of us could have achieved independently."
The technology uses the knowledge of natural language patterns and artificial intelligence to predict what a user is typing and finishes the words for him. This way, it allows people to type faster. The company estimates that since its launch as an Android app in 2010, the technology has saved its users a combined 100,000 years in typing time, equivalent to 10 trillion keystrokes.
"Eight years ago we started out as two friends with a shared belief that there had to be a better way of typing on smartphones,” SwiftKey’s founders Jon Reynolds and Ben Medlock said in a statement.
"We've come a long way since then; today hundreds of millions of people around the world, and many of the leading mobile manufacturers, rely on our language prediction technology.”
The founders insisted that despite joining the Microsoft family, Swiftkey apps will remain free for Andoid and iOS users. The technology, which currently supports more than 100 languages, has been incorporated into many apps as a default keyboard and even comes pre-installed on many smartphones.
Swiftkey previously worked with Intel on development of a better speaking system for disabled physicist Professor Stephen Hawking that has improved his ability to communicate and give lectures.
In 2012, Swiftkey was named the Best Startup Business at the Guardian Innovation Awards. Two years later, the technology has been introduced to iOS and the firm listed among the Sunday Times best UK private technology companies.
Swiftkey currently employs 160 people in its offices in London, San Francisco and Seoul. The app has been downloaded 10 million times from Google’s Play Store, topping download rankings in 47 countries.