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Google goes to Blighty for Goggles polish

Borgs Plink visual search startup

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Google has acquired UK-based visual search outfit Plink, with the intention of rolling the newly public startup into Mountain View's fledgling Google Goggles project.

This is the company's first-ever UK acquisition.

Plink co-founders Mark Cummins and James Philbin announced the news on Monday with a blog post. "We started Plink to bring the power of visual search to everyone, and we’re delighted to be taking a big step towards that goal today," said the pair, who founded Plink while PhD students at Oxford University in the department of engineering's mobile robotics and visual geometry groups.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The startup's inaugural product was an Android application dubbed PlinkArt, a tool that attempts to identify artwork snapped with a camera phone and provide relevant information on the work and its artist. According to Cummins and Philbin, the app has been downloaded over 50,000 times since its launch four months ago.

Like PlinkArt, Google Goggles is an Android application that attempts to match camera pics to those stored in a web-based image database. One of its advertised uses is, yes, identifying artwork. It can also do character recognition, if you wanted to, say, input the information from a business card into your phone's contact manager. And separate from its image-recognition tools, it can identify local business via GPS and compass.

"Google has already shown that it’s serious about investing in this space with Google Goggles, and for the Plink team, the opportunity to take our algorithms to Google-scale was just too exciting to pass up," Cummins and Philbin said.

PlinkArt will still be available for download, but it will no longer be updated. Instead, Cummins and Philbin say, they will focus their efforts on Google Goggles. In December, Google awarded Plink $10,000 as a winner of its Android Developer Challenge contest, after a vote by Android users and a panel of judges. ®

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