Is face recognition firm Viewdle on Google’s wishlist?


posted Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at 9:48 AM EST


Could improved facial recognition technology be on the way for Google products like Android, Google+ and Picasa? So suggests CNET news, reporting on a planned purchase of computer vision company Viewdle by the Internet giant. According to yesterday's CNET article, the deal is expected to close today, with Google expected to pay somewhere in the region of US$30-45 million to acquire the company, previously courted by Google acquisition Motorola.

Formed out of research at the V. M. Glushkov Institute of Cybernetics in Kiev, Ukraine, Viewdle is now based in Silicon Valley. The company still retains an office in Kiev, however, and also has a presence in Montevideo, Uruguay. Its technology goes well beyond simple face recognition, encompassing gesture and object recognition as well. A marketing video from the company (below) shows a concept for just some of the ways Viewdle tech could be used, and another example was provided in the Viewdle SocialCamera beta app last year, which has since been withdrawn from the Google Play store.

Viewdle's concept video shows some of the ways its technology could benefit consumers.

Of course, Google already has facial recognition technology of its own, thanks to corporate acquisitions made over the last few years. Tech from 2008 purchase Neven Vision was used to provide for the automatic location of faces to tag in Picasa, while Android's Face Unlock feature was based on IP from Pittsburgh Pattern Recognition, a 2011 takeover for Google. Google+ also includes a face recognition function that can be used to tag images.

It's certainly still possible that--should the rumors pan out--Google plans to use its new purchase to improve upon the existing tech; Viewdle touts its face recognition function as able to recognize faces after just one image. It's equally possible that Google merely wants to gain access to Viewdle's IP to strengthen its patent warchest, however, or has plans for the other tech. (The gesture recognition shown in the video above would seem to dovetail nicely with Google's efforts to get into the living room via its Google TV and Nexus Q projects.)

Viewdle's SocialCamera beta, which has since been withdrawn, used face recognition to tag subjects in images before uploading to popular social networking sites.