Google Buys Plink to Add Talent for Google Goggles

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-04-12
Google Apri1 12 confirmed that it has purchased mobile search startup Plink for an undisclosed sum, marking the latest in a series of acquisitions the search engine has made to augment its Web services offerings.

Plink's first application, PlinkArt, lets users identify paintings by snapping photos of them with their smartphones. When PlinkArt's recognizes a painting, it will provide information on the artwork and artist, and allow users to share their favorite pieces with friends or order a print of the work for their wall.

Plink co-founders Mark Cummins and James Philbin, who announced the buy in a blog post, said that Plink's 50,000-plus users may continue to use PlinkArt and new users are welcome to download the app. While the app as it exists today will not change, Cummins and Philbin said they will not update PlinkArt again.

Instead, the programmers with PhDs from Oxford said they will bring their computer vision expertise to Google Goggles, the mobile visual search app Google launched last year for Android smartphones such as the Motorola Droid and Google Nexus One.

Like PinkArt, Goggles already recognizes artwork, but its focus is much broader thanks to Google's massive compute scaling capabilities. Goggles currently recognizes photos of places, monuments, books, company logos, contacts from business cards, and even some products, such as bottles of wine.

The app has yet to accurately catalog cars, food, animals and plants. That's a tip to any computer vision programmers with designs on landing at Google.   

"The visual search engines of today can do some pretty cool things, but they still have a long long way to go," Cummins and Philbin wrote. "We're looking forward to helping the Goggles team build a visual search engine that works not just for paintings or book covers, but for everything you see around you."    

Cummins and Philbin repeated the now common mantra leaders from Google's newly acquired startups have been uttering; that they sold out so they could scale.

Specifically, they wrote: "Google has already shown that it's serious about investing in this space with Google Goggles, and for the Plink team the opportunity to take our algorithms to Google-scale was just too exciting to pass up."

The lure of a nice payday for intellectual property and this so-called "Google-scale" is proving to be an increasingly lucrative proposition for many startups. Where small companies are concerned, if Google targets them chances are good Google gets them.

Google began ramping up its acquisition shopping spree in August 2009 when it targeted On2 Technologies, which it finally acquired after a price fight. Google also bid $750 million for mobile ad power AdMob, but that deal is threatened by the Federal Trade Commission's concerns that it will give Google too much power in mobile ads.

Google did, however, manage to pick up display ad provider Teracent, collaboration startups AppJet  and DocVerse, social search engine Aardvark, mobile e-mail app ReMail, Web photo editor Picnik and Web video platform Episodic.

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