Infrastructure // PC & Servers
News
7/25/2011
02:40 PM
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
Twitter
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Google Buys PittPatt, Gains Facial Recognition

PittPatt's facial recognition technology is likely to enhance Google's set of social, image, and video services.

Top 15 Google Apps For Business
Slideshow: Top 15 Google Apps ForBusiness
(click image for larger view and for full slideshow)
Google has acquired Pittsburgh Pattern Recognition, or PittPatt, a company that makes facial recognition software for images and video, but insists it won't deploy the technology until it deals with the privacy issues.

"We've said that we won't add face recognition to our apps or product features unless we have strong privacy protections in place, and that's still the case," a Google spokesperson said in an email. "The Pittsburgh Pattern Recognition team has developed innovative technology in the area of pattern recognition and computer vision. We think their research and technology can benefit our users in many ways, and we look forward to working with them."

PittPatt, a startuped founded in 2004 by computer scientists from Carnegie Mellon University, disclosed the deal on its website last week, though no price was cited. The company noted that computer vision technology is central to several Google products like Image Search, YouTube, Picasa, and Goggles, and that it anticipates continuing to develop the technology for photo organization, as well as for video and mobile applications.

Google's spokesperson declined to comment on whether the technology might find a use in Google+, the company's nascent social network.

Google has a longstanding interest in visual search technology but has deployed it carefully, knowing that it makes many people uncomfortable. In 2009, the company introduced Google Goggles, software that can recognize certain kinds of images. At the time, Google's Vic Gundotra, then VP of engineering, said that Google had elected not to include the ability to recognize faces until it understood the privacy implications better.

But Google has continued to pursue image recognition technology. In 2010, it bought Like.com, a visual product matching engine derived from facial recognition technology developed by Riya. Around the same time, it filed a patent application titled, "Facial Recognition With Social Network Aiding." This year, it introduced a new image matching capability in Image Search.

Facebook, unlike Google, elected to deploy facial recognition technology to help its users recognize and tag friends in photos. The fact that it enabled the technology by default prompted complaints from security and privacy experts. The company subsequently acknowledged that it could have handled the introduction of Tag Suggestions better, but has maintained that users can alter their privacy settings to avoid having their names suggested in friends' photos.

The path forward for both Google and Facebook may be simply to not use the term "facial recognition." Facebook, in its blog post announcing the company's intention to deploy facial recognition technology, manages to avoid using the term at all. And just as Google prefers "invalid clicks" and "interest-based advertising" to more emotionally-loaded terms like "click fraud" and "behavioral advertising," the search advertising giant is likely to pursue "pattern recognition" rather than "facial recognition" technology, even if the two are essentially the same thing.

InformationWeek Analytics is conducting a survey on mobile device management and security. Respond to the survey and be eligible to win an iPod Touch. Take the survey now. Survey ends July 29.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Server Market Splitsville
Server Market Splitsville
Just because the server market's in the doldrums doesn't mean innovation has ceased. Far from it -- server technology is enjoying the biggest renaissance since the dawn of x86 systems. But the primary driver is now service providers, not enterprises.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Government Oct. 20, 2014
Energy and weather agencies are busting long-held barriers to analyzing big data. Can the feds now get other government agencies into the movement?
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
A roundup of the top stories and trends on InformationWeek.com
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.