According to Google's blog, the search giant has bought Neven Vision, a small Santa Monica-based company that specializes in object and facial recognition technology. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Adrian Graham, Google's product manager for photo-sharing application Picasa, elaborated slightly on how Neven's "expertise around automatically extracting information from a photo" fits into the search provider's mission.
"It could be as simple as detecting whether or not a photo contains a person, or, one day, as complex as recognizing people, places and objects," Graham wrote. "This technology may make it a lot easier for you to organize and find the photos you care about."
But Neven's technology is already being used more broadly. The company sells the technology for mobile marketing purposes in an application called iScout. For example, people can use a regular camera cell phone to take a picture of a movie billboard, and then send the image to a special database that returns a film trailer, locates a theater showing the advertised movie, or let the person buy tickets to the film.
It's possible with object and facial recognition software that can match images with those scanned into an Internet-connected database. A match can trigger a range of possible results, including promotions, ring tones, pricing, maps and search results.
In this way, Google could easily use this software to improve local search and advertising from cell phones, for example.