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Google handset arm grabs facial recog tech firm

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Motorola Mobility, the handset arm of the Googleplex, is acquiring Viewdle, the Valley-based vision specialist offering facial recognition among other things.

Details of the deal haven't been released, but Techcrunch pegs the deal around $40m, and points out that Viewdle has been supplying Motorola with software for years and claims it has been talking to Google about getting itself bought since 2008.

Image analysis is a key differentiator in mobile phones these days, despite being about as far from the act of making a phone call as it's possible to be. Anti-shake is standard fare, along with smile detection (which holds the frame until everyone is smiling) and anti-blink (same process).

Modern phones also allow the user to merge the best bits from multiple snaps – that face, on that body, with that hair – all of which requires complex image analysis so the phone understands the component parts of the image.

That, in turn, leads to augmented reality applications and object recognition, all of which Viewdle can, and will, do.

It will be interesting to see if Google rolls some of that technology into Android, thus bolstering its war with Apple, or drops facial recognition into Google+ to up the ante in the (largely forgotten, but ongoing) battle against Facebook. Or perhaps Google will keep the tech within Motorola Mobility to differentiate its Android handsets from those of the competition.

It was Motorola Mobility that made the purchase, as part of Google, so it's also possible it just wanted to stop paying royalties on the Viewdle software already being used in Motorola devices.

The truth is no doubt some combination of the above, but does demonstrate how important, and advanced, image analysis is becoming – to the point where one only waits for the right moment to take a snap when playing a round of Shutter Chance. ®

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