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.