Report: Apple buys voice tech platform PullString

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A screenshot from Pullstring's Converse software.

A screenshot from Pullstring’s Converse software.

Siri could be getting a boost, following Friday’s report that Apple has acquired voice tech startup PullString.

The report by online news publication Axios did not specify deal terms, although it did indicate the price was about $30 million, plus about $10 million in potential earnouts by PullString executives. Apple has not confirmed the purchase.

At first, talking toys. Started in 2011 by ex-Pixar employees, including former Pixar CTO Oren Jacob, the startup was originally called ToyTalk. Its initial projects were focused on in-character interactive voice tech for such toys as Hello Barbie and Thomas the Tank Engine, and a chatbot for Call of Duty’s Lt. Reyes.

In September of 2016, it released its Author platform so that marketers could create their own text-based chatbots, and in December it added the ability to create voice-based skills for Amazon’s Alexa.

In the fall of 2017, PullString launched a platform that was completely oriented toward creating voice apps for Alexa, by non-technical users. Called Converse, it was billed as one of the most comprehensive and intelligent platforms for this purpose.

It featured conversational blocks, such as for greetings or navigational help, responded differently to new and returning users, could pull data from such sources as customer relationship management centers or contact centers, and let users immediately preview their project in a browser.

Why you should care. Although Apple’s Siri is arguably in third place for colonizing the world with its intelligent voice agent, this new acquisition could provide technology so that marketers and others can customize Siri or its offspring for their own purposes.

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If Apple does integrate the Pullstring acquisition in that way, Siri could become a substantial resource in marketers’ toolkit. At the moment, there is no dominant platform for building voice-based agents by non-technical users, and an Apple-based Pullstring could fill that bill.

This story first appeared on MarTech Today. For more on marketing technology, click here.


About The Author

Barry Levine covers marketing technology for Third Door Media. Previously, he covered this space as a Senior Writer for VentureBeat, and he has written about these and other tech subjects for such publications as CMSWire and NewsFactor. He founded and led the web site/unit at PBS station Thirteen/WNET; worked as an online Senior Producer/writer for Viacom; created a successful interactive game, PLAY IT BY EAR: The First CD Game; founded and led an independent film showcase, CENTER SCREEN, based at Harvard and M.I.T.; and served over five years as a consultant to the M.I.T. Media Lab. You can find him at LinkedIn, and on Twitter at xBarryLevine.



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