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More than Organizing Photos? Google Acquires Neven Vision

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Adrian Graham, Picasa's Product Manager, made a post Tuesday morning on the Official Google Blog titled A better way to organize photos? in which he announced that the team at Neven Vision has now joined Google. His post tells us that Neven Vision's software will make it easier for people to find and organize their photos. But, is there more to the purchase? Looking around some blogs that discussed the acquisition holds hints to possibily more.

I first read about this acquisition over on the Google Operating System Blog, in Object Recognition Is The Future Of Google, where I learned that the facial recognition software developed by Neven Vision will run on the types of microprocessors found in mobile phones.

It sounded like more might be happening than just putting pictures in order, so I tried to see if I could find any clues involving the intellectual property behind the company, with a trademark search and a patent search on their name. I came up with nothing. No patents assigned to Neven Vision, and no trademark in that name. At the time, their site was still working. A visit now yields the following message:

Thank you for your interest. Neven Vision was recently acquired by Google Inc. and Neven Vision product information is no longer available on this site. Click here to learn more.

But the site was up most of the day, and it did provide some helpful information. A search at the patent office on Hartmut Neven, one of the board members of Neven Vision, showed patents assigned to Nevengineering, Inc. A page on their site also listed a number of patents that they had been granted, and the numbers from those matched others that I found from the patent office. The oldest was originally filed back in 1996, and was followed by a number of others. The company it was originally assigned to was Eyematic Interfaces, Inc., but the patent had been reassigned to Nevenengineering in March of 2004. It seems that at some point in 2003, Eyematic Interfaces, Inc., transformed into Nevenengineering, Inc., with a focus that may have been more aimed at mobile technology.

I made a list of the patents I could find and some of the details about them in Google Acquires Neven Vision: Adding Object and Facial Recognition Mobile Technology.

While I was digging through the patents, a discussion started up at Google Blogoscoped on the
purchase, and the news spread to GigaOm in Google Buys Photo Recognition Company, which both mention previous attempts by Google to purchase Riya, another recognition software company.

My friend Loren, over at Search Engine Journal, draws some other conclusions from other pages found on the Neven Vision site in Google, Neven Vision & Image Recognition. Loren ties together information from my patent post, what Liz Gannes at wrote at GigaOM, and from a number of other sources into a thoughtful analysis of what the acquisition may mean for Google in the future. And it's more than just organizing photos in Picassa.

Robin Good wrote a post on his blog at the end of July which shows an approach one image recognition company is taking in Visual Similarity Search Engine Finds Images According To Your Specs. What might we see from Google?

There are a lot of possibilities that become available with software that can recognize faces and objects. It will be interesting to see how Google might use some of the intellectual property and the expertise that they acquired with the folks from Neven Vision joining them. One of the newest patent applications published from Neven Vision, Image-based search engine for mobile phones with camera, lists some possibilities:

  • Image Based Searches
  • Optical Character Recognition with Language Translation
  • Mobile Advertising
  • Print-to-Internet
  • Payment System (using barcodes and labels)
  • Learning Tool for Children
  • Treasure Hunt Games
  • Virtual Annotation

Another, Image base inquiry system for search engines for mobile telephones with integrated camera, adds even more:

  • City and Museum Guides
  • Providing Product Information
  • Face Recognition
  • Product Part Replacement
Adding the ability to sort and search photos in Picassa is probably just the start of what we will see from this union.

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