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Microsoft Working On Image Search For Mobile Phones

The technology would be an alternative to having to use the phone's keypad to type out search queries, according to a company blog entry.

Microsoft Corp. is experimenting on technology that would make it possible to take a picture of an object with a camera phone, and then use the image to do a search of a Web-based database for more information.

Calling the concept Phone2Search, the technology is being investigated by the Web Search and Mining group within Microsoft Research Asia, according to a company blog. The technology would be an alternative to having to use the phone's keypad to type out search queries.

Officials at the Chinese research facility were unavailable for comment, but research Xing Xie said in the blog that Phone2Search, for example, could be used to take a picture of a product in a store, and then do a price-comparison search.

The way the technology would work is after a person takes a picture, the image would be sent via email or multimedia messaging service to a Web-based server, which would then search an image database for matches.

Xie and his colleagues have developed computer-vision algorithms that extract features from images in order to perform searches. The technology is capable of combing 6,000 images and delivering matches in three seconds, Microsoft said. The searchable database, however, needs to contain a predefined collection of images, in order for the technology to work.

Xie and several colleagues plan to present their work at the seventh annual International Conference on Mobile Data Management in Japan in May.

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