Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Google, Neven Vision & Image Recognition

Google today acquired a key player in face and image recognition biometrics, Neven Vision. The benefits and new features which Google can roll out with Neven Vision under its belt are seemingly endless and if I were to compare the opportunity of Google’s new buy with any other recent acquisition in Google history, it would be that of Keyhole (ie. Google Earth & Google Maps).

Adrian Graham, Picasa Product Manager, made the Neven Vision acquisition announcement on the Google Blog : Neven Vision comes to Google with deep technology and expertise around automatically extracting information from a photo. 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. This technology just may make it a lot easier for you to organize and find the photos you care about. We don’t have any specific features to show off today, but we’re looking forward to having more to share with you soon.

Sure; image, face, place and object recognition can change the entire Google Picasa photo organization experience and with automatic tagging, may even become a serious competitor to Yahoo’s Flickr or Yahoo Photos.

There is, however, so much more to this acquisition beyond the photo album tagging and photo definition technology.

Patents, Video & Mobile Technology

First let’s look at the patents which Neven Vision holds. The NevenVison.com site has been taken down and is serving Google messages, but a glimpse at its pre-existing pages in Google Cache reward the reader with some nice background information on the company, its patents:

Patent Number & Description

* EP1072018 : Wavelet-Based Facial Motion Capture for Avatar Animation

* 1072014 Face Recognition from Video Images

* EP1072018 Wavelet-Based Facial Motion Capture for Avatar Animation

* 218457 Face Recognition from Video Images

* 218458 Wavelet-Based Facial Motion Capture for Avatar Animation

* EP1072018 Wavelet-Based Facial Motion Capture for Avatar Animation

* 1072014 Face Recognition from Video Images

* 6714661 Method & System for Customizing Facial Feature Tracking Using Precise Landmark

* 6222939 Labeled Bunch Graphs for Image Analysis (EYEM1160/ NE01)

* 6356659 Labeled Bunch Graphs for Image Analysis

* 6563950 Labeled Bunch Graphs for Image Analysis

* 6466695 Procedure for Automatic Analysis of Images & Image Sequences Based on Two Dimensional Shape Primitives

* 6272231 Wavelet-Based Facial Motion Capture for Avatar Animation

* 6580811 Wavelet-Based Facial Motion Capture for Avatar Animation

* 6301370 Face Recognition from Video Images

As we can see from the patent list, Neven Vision is not limited to facial recognition nor image recognition through images alone and holds a nice selection of video recognition patents, specifically centered around Face Recognition from Video Images and applying this technology to the mobile phone.

Just as I thought I had some kind of patent scoop on the company, I clicked over to SEO by the SEA and saw that Bill Slawski has already listed these patents and excerpts from their abstracts. So, instead of going down the same course, here are some interesting patent applications and abstracts highlighted by Mr. Slawski:

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