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Twitter acquires machine learning startup Magic Pony to enhance image, video features

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Twitter has acquired London-based Magic Pony to enhance its machine learning capabilities in image processing, the company said in a statement today. A TechCrunch report pegged the size of the deal at $150 million. Magic Pony’s team will join Twitter’s team of engineers, data scientists, and machine learning researchers who build and test “new experiences (for users) to share and participate in.”

Note that this is Twitter’s third acquisition in a machine learning company: In June last year it acquired Artificial Intelligence (AI) focused company Whetlab for an undisclosed amount, in July 2014 it acquired image search startup Madbits for an undisclosed amount.

Twitter said that Magic Pony’s technology, which creates algorithms in visual or image processing, will be used to enhance its live video product Periscope, short clips product Vine and other video and image based features. Magic Pony will broadly focus on computer vision, machine learning, high-performance computing, and computational neuroscience.

Twitter could be working on new live streaming products: The company’s recent addition to machine learning came after its CFO Anthony Noto hinted on plans of launching a live scorecard or match information feature, and plans of offering other “live premium content”, in a recent conference call. This could be something like Facebook’s Sports Stadium feature that aggregates posts, comments, live scores, stats, etc in single page. Twitter also said that it would monetize on Periscope and Vine by bringing them to the Twitter timeline, and allowing marketers to run ads.

SoundCloud acquisition: Last week, Twitter acquired online music discovery service SoundCloud for $70 million. In May, it was reported that Twitter was looking to buy SoundCloud  but walked away from the deal. Twitter had been looking to break into the music streaming business for some time after it shutdown live music streaming app #Music app in March 2014.

Changes in character limit and timeline

Apart from updates to how content like GIF and video is viewed, Twitter is also working on tweaking its timeline, and removing its 140-chrarcter limit in certain tweets, which could essentially change how users on the platform interact with each other.

Last month, Twitter said that it would remove the 140-character limit when users add text in reply to a tweet, retweets and self-tweets. It also plans on removing the 140-character limit on user’s text on attachments like photos, GIFs, videos, polls, or Quote Tweets. In addition, twitter will also tweak visibility of Tweets that begin with a username by making it visible to all followers in a user’s list. The updates will be rolled in the coming months.

Tweaks to timeline: In order to get more people to start using Twitter and nudge dormant Twitter users to use it more, it had beefed up its timeline to show tweets which are most relevant to the user at the top, instead of showing the latest tweets by time, the company announced in a blog post on February. Twitter will arrange the “best tweets from the people you follow and will display these in a recent and reverse chronological order”.

 Image credit: Flickr user keiyac under CC BY 2.0

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