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Google buys machine vision startup focusing on 'instant object recognition'

Google buys machine vision startup focusing on 'instant object recognition'

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It's a good time to be a machine learning startup. Two weeks after Twitter bought London-based Magic Pony, Google has purchased French firm Moodstocks. The acquisition was made for an unknown sum, and seems primarily a grab for talent. Moodstocks' engineers and researchers will move to Google's Paris R&D site, and the startup's primary commercial product — an image recognition API for smartphones — will be phased out.

"Ever since we started Moodstocks, our dream has been to give eyes to machines by turning cameras into smart sensors able to make sense of their surroundings," said Moodstocks in a statement. "Our [new] focus will be to build great image recognition tools within Google."

Videos on Moodstocks' YouTube channel show the company's tech recognizing a range of objects with impressive speed. One commercial application — for an app named Overlay — allowed users to identify clothes and furniture in magazines using their smartphone, before having the option to buy the item. This certainly isn't a novel idea (Google's own Goggles app has been offering a similar service since 2010), but Moodstocks' underlying tech is obviously worth something to the search giant.

Google says it expects to integrate the startup's research into its own image recognition expertise, which could mean building on features like those in Google Photos that automatically tag users' snaps. More and more, images are being turned into categorizable data. Twitter's Magic Pony acquisition has benefits for this, and Facebook has long touted image recognition for photos and, more recently, videos. Google's Moodstocks acquisition looks set to speed the process of making images as searchable as text.