Sunday, July 17, 2016

Twitter acquires Magic Pony Technology for $150 MILLION

Mere days after making a major investment on the SoundCloud audio streaming service, heavyweight social networking site Twitter has scored another master coup by buying up London-based startup company Magic Pony Technology, which specializes in developing neural networks – computer systems that can think like human brains – and machine learning capabilities to perform tasks approaching true artificial intelligence.

The Guardian reports that Twitter has paid $150 million to acquire Magic Pony, which was founded in 2014 to make strides in the utilization of machine learning capabilities to create computers systems for visual processing functions. While no further details of the deal have been revealed to the public, an undisclosed source elaborates that the amount offered accounts for bonuses to the 14-man Magic Pony staff, the whole lot of whom are being retained including co-founders Zehan Wang and Rob Bishop, the company CEO.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said in a statement to how they will be able to use Magic Pony’s technology to enhance live and video images and open up new creative possibilities. “Machine learning is increasingly at the core of everything we build at Twitter,” the statement went. “Magic Pony’s machine learning technology will help us build strength into our deep learning teams with world-class talent, so Twitter can continue to be the best place to see what’s happening and why it matters, first.”

For its part, a representative of Magic Pony Technology said that they were excited to team up with Twitter, “to improve the visual experiences that are delivered across their apps.”

Magic Pony becomes the third tech startup company that Twitter has snapped up, following Whetlab in 2015 and Madbits the year earlier. Eleven of the startup’s team of 14 are PhD’s, and prior to being acquired by Twitter, they have received investments from Entrepreneur First, Octopus Ventures and their parent company of Balderton Capital, a former VC of which is now a Magic Pony tech specialist.

A recent demo of their in-house tech developments in April boasted the capability to “restore” a near-photorealistic image from a pixelated original. This resulted in a blocky in-game graphic of the face of the player character of the classic PC game “Doom” being converted into an astonishingly smooth high-definition image. The speed and efficiency of Magic Pony tech puts it on par with established brands such as Adobe and Google, but more geared towards “desktop, mobile and web”.

These amazing systems could be used by Twitter in cleaning up video streamed through their network, or for image compression. 

According to the, under the terms of the deal the Magic Pony team will remain in their London headquarters, to become Twitter’s European AI research team. Their CEO Bishop however, will be moving to new offices in Twitter HQ back in California. The acquisition is now seen as a chance for Europe to be in the thick of the AI development revolution, with US investment.

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