Google has picked up a facial recognition group known as PittPatt. PittPatt's technology is likely to be used in Google+, although there are many potential applications.
The PittPatt Acquisition
PittPatt has been around since 2004, when it became its own spin-off company based on the technology of a Carnegie Mellon University project from Dr. Henry Schneiderman. Schneiderman teamed with fellow graduates Michael Sipe and Michael Nechyba to launch the company. In that time PittPatt has developed numerous functionalities built around facial recognition technology.
But PittPatt isn't just looking to recognize which face belongs to which person. Rather, the technology is used to examine video data and measure how many people the camera sees, the movement of those users over long periods of time, the popularity of kiosks or other small business locations, and can even be used as a security backup for restricted areas.
Here's what we know about the basic elements of the deal: Google acquired PittPatt this month, PittPatt thinks the deal makes a "good fit," and Google feels that PittPatt's "innovative technology" will be of use (according to WSJ). Other than that, no real details (including the cost of acquisition and future plans) have been disclosed.
How Google Is Likely to Use PittPatt
The first and most obvious way that Google may use PittPatt is with Google+. But exactly how will Google implement facial recognition? After all, competitor Facebook has received little but flak for its facial recognition software, which was used to suggest tagging in Facebook images.
Google isn't likely to suggest identity for its own reasons as well. Despite having developed the tech to do so with Google Goggles, the company decided against making that feature public.
So where, pray tell, can Google implement the facial recognition? Google+ is still the likely location, but instead of tagging suggestions, it's likely that Hangouts – the video conferencing tool that has received so much praise in these early weeks of Google+ – will be the recipient of the tech. From video analytics tools to more precise focusing on the "right person" (the speaker) during a video conference, PittPatt's technology could have great impact here.
There are other major possibilities, too. Google Goggles could still make use of facial recognition, while image searching, Google video chat in Gmail and Google Talk, and other services could gain new features from PittPatt's work.
The most exciting possibility, though, is in potential video services for businesses. While Google hasn't indicated the exact details of Google+ for businesses, the possibility of a business "Hangout" being used as a showroom or ad space would be made more effective and easier to analyze with this software.
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