Face-Off: Google Adds Facial Recognition With PittPatt Pick Up


Google has acquired facial recognition software player Pittsburgh Pattern Recognition (PittPatt), a move that gives Google an established object recognition tool to wrap into a host of products including the Google+ social networking platform or Android apps.

Born out of research at Carnegie Mellon University, PittPatt makes facial recognition software that can identify users from images and video.

"We are happy to announce that Pittsburgh Pattern Recognition has been acquired by Google," PittPatt said on its Web site.

"We will continue to tap the potential of computer vision in applications that range from simple photo organization to complex video and mobile applications," PittPatt said.

PittPatt began with research at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute in the 1990s and officially launched as PittPatt in 2004.

Google has not specified where it will use the PittPatt technology. But the PittPatt pick up could be an easy fit for many of Google's Web offerings, as the search giant already leverages computer vision technology like facial and object recognition in existing products, including Image Search, YouTube, Picasa and Google Goggles.

In Picasa, Google uses facial recognition capabilities acquired from Neven Vision in 2006. Picasa has a feature called "name tags" that lets users tag a person in a photo and automatically groups together photos of similar looking people for easier tagging.

And Google Goggles also uses object recognition, by allowing users to take a photo of an object and using that photo to identify what the object is.

"The Pittsburgh Pattern Recognition team has developed innovative technology in the area of pattern recognition and computer vision," a Google spokesperson said in a statement e-mailed Monday to CRN. "We think their research and technology can benefit our users in many ways, and we look forward to working with them."

One area where Google could leverage PittPatt's facial recognition technology is in its month-old Google+ social networking offering. Google+ reportedly drew in more than 20 million users in its first three weeks as an alternative platform to Facebook. The PittPatt technology could be used for photo and video tools within Google+.

Google, however, must be careful of how it integrates the fruits of the PittPatt acquisition. Facebook last month enabled new facial recognition technology to make it easier for friends to tag other friends' photos, which opened the door to security and privacy concerns.