Plink, makers of a visual search application for mobile devices called PlinkArt. The app "recognizes almost any work of art," claims the app's homepage, "just by taking a photo of it." In addition to the visual identification aspect, Plink users can also discuss the art within the app, send images to friends or order prints of the artwork.Google's newest acquisition is
On its own, Plink sounds like an entertaining and educational tool, but one whose real-life implementations would probably be limited to a tour of an art museum or a late-night cram session for an Art History exam. But Google didn't just buy Plink for the art it can identify - that's just an added bonus. It's likely that Google bought the company more for the algorithm that powers the smart application and brains of those who invented it.
According to a post on the Plink company blog, developers Mark Cummins and James Philbin, Oxford PhD students whose company was only four months old when acquired, will now join Google to commence work on the search giant's "Google Goggles" project. This ambitious, futuristic mobile search application is already available for Google's own mobile OS, Android, in a limited format. At the moment, you can use Google Goggles to take pictures of real-world objects like landmarks, logos, books, contact info, places, wine and - oh yes - artwork, too. The mobile application then recognizes the images and objects in your pictures and that, in turn, kicks off a Google search for whatever item it finds.
While on the one hand, it does seem amazing that a mobile application can "see" the world like this, the reality is that this sort of mobile search experience is still in its infancy. Unlike with Google's text-based search engine, there's no guarantee that the app will be able to recognize the image in your photo. Was the photo too blurry? Too dark? Or was it a building (book/place/etc.) that the app doesn't know yet?
But just as how the original tablet computers were heavy, clunky, inelegant devices that blazoned a trail that led us to the sleek and shiny iPad, a tablet some now claim will "revolutionize" computing, Google Goggles could one day lead to a world where everything we see - including people! - can be identified through the eyes of camera and an algorithm.
That's a somewhat frightening concept, but one that's also incredibly exciting at the same time, we have to admit.
Plink will now become a part of that effort, enhancing Goggles' artwork search engine while the engineers bring their talent and ideas to forward the project as a whole. "There are beautiful things to be done with computer vision," reads the blog post signed "Mark & James." "It's going to be a lot of fun," it concludes. For us, too.
(Originally reported via the Guardian)