Google acquired PittPatt, whose facial recognition software can be used in anything from the Google+ social network to object-tracking software for Android mobile devices.
Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) confirmed it has acquired facial
recognition software specialist Pittsburgh Pattern Recognition (PittPatt),
which was born from research at Carnegie Mellon University.
Pittsburgh Pattern Recognition (PittPatt), which makes facial
recognition software that identifies users from images and video, was launched in
2004 by Henry Schneiderman, who performed his research both as a student and faculty member of the Carnegie
Mellon University Robotics Institute.
Facial recognition software can be an extremely sensitive
topic, as Facebook learned in June
when its social network users learned the company was
using facial recognition to improve its photos product.
team explained in a
note on its Website that it would use its computer
vision technology and talent in applications that range from simple photo
organization to complex video and mobile applications at Google.
"At Google, computer vision technology is already at
the core of many existing products (such as Image Search, YouTube, Picasa, and
Goggles), so it's a natural fit to join Google and bring the benefits of our
research and technology to a wider audience," the PittPatt team wrote.
However, a Google spokesperson declined to say in what
capacity the company would use PittPatt's software or talent to bolster
specific Web services.
"The Pittsburgh Pattern Recognition team has
developed innovative technology in the area of pattern recognition and computer
vision," the Google spokesperson told eWEEK. "We think their research
and technology can benefit our users in many ways, and we look forward to
working with them."
With Google+ doing so well, it has to be tempting for Google to use PittPatt to boost tagging in
its new Google+ social network, especially after Facebook has used facial recognition to improve
tagging in photos. Google could use PittPatt for the same purpose in
Picasa, the + photo repository.
Of course, Google could also use PittPatt technology to improve
facial recognition in its object-tracking for video chat via its Android
Google demonstrated rudimentary technology on this front
at Google I/O in May. Officials used software to instruct a tablet computer
Webcam to follow a video chat user's head movements and switch to whomever is
speaking during a video conference.
Google has facial recognition capabilities from its
Google Goggles visual search product, but has refrained from using the
technology given the sensitivity around user privacy
Former Google CEO and current executive chairman Eric
Schmidt has warned that Google would not apply facial recognition technology
because of the privacy concerns. The Google spokesperson hammered home this
"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."