Google's Plink Buy Is Yet Another Acqu-hire

In its latest acquisition — its first-ever in the UK — Google has bought a small visual search startup called Plink, which makes a mobile app that recognizes works of art. The acquisition appears to be an attempt to add some horsepower to its Google Goggles visual search project. Plink’s two founders — Mark Cummins and James Philbin, both of whom have PhDs from Oxford — say in a blog post announcing the deal that they will no longer be developing their app, but instead will be working on Goggles. A Google Labs experiment that currently runs only on Android devices, Goggles lets users search for landmarks, books, documents and other objects by taking photos with their mobile device.

The Plink purchase is the latest in a string of acquisitions by Google. Last fall, CEO Eric Schmidt said that the search company planned to acquire an average of one small company a month, and that the deals in most cases would be “in lieu of hiring.” As Liz pointed out in a recent post, many of these purchases — or “acqu-hires” — have involved former Googlers, including the founders of Aardvark, AppJet and ReMail.

Plink’s app — which is called PlinkArt, and runs on iPhones and Android devices — allows users to get information about works of art. When a user takes a photo of a painting with their phone, the app recognizes it and pulls up information about it. The Plink founders apparently got Google’s attention when they won $100,000 in an Android developers challenge last year. Google Goggles was released last year, and the company has said it plans to support iPhones and other platforms soon as well as Android. In February, the company showed a prototype version of the app doing text recognition and translation of a German restaurant menu (video embedded below).

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Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Stefan

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