PHOENIX--One of the hottest companies you may not have heard of yet is Redwood City, Calif.-based Riya.
Essentially, Riya's Web-based service involves photo search. But that oversimplifies what could be one of the coolest--or scariest--innovations to come along in some time.
The idea is based around trying to bring order to the thousands of unnamed digital photos we all have on our hard drives.
Riya asks users to upload sets of photos and then add names to faces the service doesn't recognize. Once you add a name once, the software is designed to recognize each and every instance of that person in the photo library, even if their face is just in a framed photograph on a wall in the background.
The software can also recognize text--from street signs to name tags.
Some have worried that Riya invades privacy because it asks you to provide e-mail addresses of other people you know to confirm if they've tagged in the same way faces that appear in your photos. But the company has said it has no ties to the government and just wants to help people sift through their mountains of pictures.
Well, you decide for yourself.
In the meantime, there have been rumors that , but the company's CEO, Munjal Shah, denies it. Still, he hinted at Demo '06 here that Google may well have been one of the investors who recently put $15 million into Riya. If so, we could expect to see the software incorporated into Picasa sometime soon.