After hosting a panel on mobile Web access at the Under the Radar conference on mobility last week, I moderated the digital imaging session, where four CEOs showed off what they can make camera phones do.
Daem Interactive makes a system that lets camera phones recognize images in the real world. Primarily designed for advertisements, the idea is that if you see an ad in the wild (like on a billboard) that's part of a special promotion, when you snap a picture of it and MMS it to the system you'll be rewarded with content, a prize, or a coupon. It has shades of CueCat--except you don't need a scanner, you just use your phone. We also saw a demo of the next generation of the technology, where the phone itself can recognize products or ads in real time. If this works, it may eventually render both ScanBuy and Frucall obsolete.
MotionDSP has technology that improves rotten camera-phone videos. By examining the differences between frames of a video, it can reduce compression artifacts (blockiness) and improve resolution of the video. It's an incredibly cool, military-derived technology that the team has been working on for many years; I first saw it about five years ago when I was working at Red Herring. I'm glad to see that it's finally reaching the market, although I fear it may be a bit late--camera-phone technology is advancing very rapidly, and users eventually will not need this service. Still, it would be a great service for YouTube to offer today.
ScanR makes your camera-phone into an office scanner. You snap pictures of documents whiteboards or with your camera, send them to ScanR, and it sends you back cleaned-up images. It also sends OCR'd and searchable files to your Web account. I've used it, and it's very handy. See previous blog post.
Ontela sells a system that can automatically transfer camera-phone images to whatever Web service you (or your carrier) designates. There are several online video and photo services that have this feature (like YouTube and Shozu), but Ontela is trying to create the transfer function independent of any service, so any site or carrier can employ it.
What do all of these services have in common? One thing: Their creators all realize that you can't expect too much image processing from a camera phone. The first three of these services are processing farms for images and videos that are sent to them. The last is a way to send the data. So while it's the least sexy of the bunch, Ontela is the one service that all the others (and other new services to come) need more than anything else: An easy tool that can help consumers get images off their phones and onto the Net, where the cool companies can pick them up and do interesting things with them.