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Facebook just bought a small start-up that could make Messenger smarter

  • Facebook's latest acquisition delivers more artificial intelligence talent.
  • The Ozlo assistant app for Android and iOS was smart but not very popular.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Getty Images
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook on Monday said that it has acquired Ozlo, a start-up that built a virtual assistant app for Android and iOS. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

Ozlo launched last year, making its assistant available outside of other apps with assistants, including Alphabet's Google Allo, Facebook's Messenger, and Microsoft's Skype. Ozlo can give you recipes, point to nearby restaurants and show movie showtimes, among other things. But the app hasn't become extremely popular -- on Android the app has 500-1,000 installs.

Messenger's many end users can already talk with many chatbots in the app, and Facebook wants to get even more businesses using the technology to talk with customers. Facebook has also tested a dedicated first-party M assistant for a small group of users, and more recently it has made a few components of M available to everyone on Messenger.

The majority of the Ozlo team -- 29 employees are listed on LinkedIn -- is joining Facebook, and they all will be working in Facebook's Messenger group, a Facebook spokeswoman told CNBC. The start-up's apps and other offerings "are winding down," the spokeswoman said.

"By joining a team that shares our values and our vision, we will be able to continue to work on building experiences powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. There's a lot more for us to explore ahead and we're excited to bring our technology to the Messenger community," Ozlo said in a message on its website.

Apple, Alphabet, Amazon and Microsoft have all been investing in AI to improve their services as well in recent years.

Ozlo was founded in 2013 and had its headquarters in Palo Alto, California, nearby Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park. Investors include AME Cloud Ventures and Greylock. Co-founder Charles Jolley was previously worked at Facebook, where he ran Facebook for Android and launched the Facebook Home.

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