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Apple acquires PullString which offers a platform to build voice apps in minutes

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Apple has reportedly acquired AI-based voice startup PullString, aka ToyTalk, for a deal that is speculated to be worth around $30 million. There’s also around $10 million in potential earn-outs for management. The development was first reported by Axios.

PullString is a startup that that develops voice recognition applications. The acquisition could help Apple’s Siri compete against other voice-activated services in the market that are powered by Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Assistant.

The firm was founded in 2011 by former Pixar executives and the company has so far raised around $44 million. The startup makes voice experience design tools, artificial intelligence to power those experiences, and toys like talking Barbie and Thomas The Tank Engine toys in partnership with Mattel.

Google and Amazon have built platforms to distribute Skills from tons of voice app makers, including storytelling, quizzes, and other games for kids — something which Apple lacks. If Apple wants to take a real shot at becoming the center of the connected living room with Siri and HomePod, it needs to play nice with the children who spend their time there.

With PullString in its kitty, the company now has a chance to jumpstart Apple’s in-house catalog of speech-activated toys for kids as well as beef up its tools for voice developers to offer new solutions. Given SiriKit’s complexity and lack of features, PullString’s Converse platform could be helpful for more developers to jump into building voice products for Apple’s devices.

PullString has raised funding from a bunch of investors, including Khosla Ventures, CRV, Greylock, First Round, and True Ventures. The latest fundraise activity from the company was its Series D funding round it raised in 2016, valuing the startup at around $160 million.