Google Buys Photo Recognition Company


Google announced today on its blog it had acquired Neven Vision, a photo recognition firm whose background is in biometrics, for an undisclosed sum. The technology is to be incorporated into Google’s Picasa to improve search of personal photo collections. The company has a strong mobile bent that Google neglects to mention in its post.

Santa Monica-based Neven Vision was founded about 10 years ago in 2003 by a group of people who had worked together on a biometrics company, but in the last few years changed its their focus to applying that technology to mobile visual search. Customers include NTT DoCoMo (for authenticating transactions), the U.S. government (including the LAPD for identifying gang members), and Coca-Cola (for mobile marketing campaigns).

Neven Vision has offices in Japan, the United Kingdom, Singapore and Germany, as well as 19 families of patents, so this can’t have been chump change. Investors include Anthem Venture Partners and Zone Ventures.

Google had previously looked into buying Riya, a young photo recognition startup, but the deal fell through (see Om’s coverage). Riya has since changed its focus to web-wide image search. “Welcome to the realization that looking inside images is important, Google,” Riya CEO Munjal Shah wrote on his blog today. Sounds just slightly bitter.


dave mcclure

whether or not Riya is still searching for a buyer or a business model, i’d have to say the new Riya 2.0 interface is stunning.

in particular, the “People browse” is a veritable eye-stalking feast for the senses ;)

i wouldn’t count them out of the race just yet.


Is there any tagging standard for pictures ? Something similar to ID3 MP3 tagging ?

Munjal Shah

Not Bitter, Liz ;-). Just saying that

1) Google has with this acquisition affirmed the main premise underneath Riya…”that to truly make photos searchable you need technology to look inside it”.

2) Google isn’t always the first to release new technology. In this case Riya was the first to deliver it.

That being said, for the last two years we had no easily identifiable competitiors. Now we do. We can’t ignore it and as I wrote… time to run … even faster.

CEO Riya

BTW – Congrats on the new job – GigaOm is becoming quite a powerhouse


While the whole world is oogling Riya, and Google’s acquisitions in the photo/image search space, there exists an amazing Canadian software company that is doing true visual search,, they have real customers (Getty Images), real partners (Adobe), generating real revenues.


Heh – perhaps google can recognize and replace physical advertising inventory in photos – i.e.: covering over billboards with AdWords in your jpgs. That would be a site to see! (/tongue-in-cheek)

On the topic of Riya: IIRC, the last TechCrunch post on their expanded market focus included applications such as using a picture of a fabric pattern that you like to search the web for rugs that you would like. Errr – does this smack of a tool desperately flailing for use to anyone else?

Start with a need and work from there, entrepreneurs!


As per last data from hitwise, Image search is 9% of total google traffic. they are leaving too much on the table and guess this will help them to develop a way to monetize imagesearch. “Adsense for images” doesn’t exist, but if they were to re-congnise objects/locations/text on images, it provides them a great way to put contextual advertising on them.


I met the Riya guys a couple of months ago, and I got the sense that they were over-hyping. I think the fact that Google passed on them and their lousy trafic chart on Alexa confirms this. I like that hype without any meat doesnt work. Never worked. Bye bye Riya.

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