Google has historically maintained a steady pace of acquiring small, privately held companies and, after a brief lull due to the recession, now expects to be making about one acquisition per month, mainly in lieu of hiring.
In their first foray into the UK market Google has bought Plink, a small company which makes a mobile app that recognizes works of art. Plink was founded by Mark Cummins and James Philbin, both of whom have PhDs from Oxford, and launched publicly only four months ago. According to their blog post announcing the deal they will no longer be developing Plink but instead will be working on the Google Goggles visual search project. The visual search project is a Google Labs experiment that currently runs only on Android devices and lets users search for landmarks, books, documents and other objects by taking photos with their mobile device.
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. According to gigaom, in February the company showed a prototype version of the app doing text recognition and translation of a German restaurant menu.
Cummins and Philbin sign off by saying “The visual search engines of today can do some pretty cool things, but they still have a long long way to go. 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. There are beautiful things to be done with computer vision – it’s going to be a lot of fun!”