A startup code-named Ojos that is about to launch is trying to figure out how to automatically tag digital photos based on facial recognition and other visual pattern matching. The idea is that you would tag one photo that shows, say, your son's face, then the software would find every other photo in your archive with your son in it and label it accordingly. If this really works, you can sign me up.
It sounds like there are still a few bugs to work out, though. The company backed out of DemoFall because the technology is not quite there yet. Founder Munjal Shah says on his blog:
My alpha launch criteria is that the system has to work well on my 31K images. I have images from 10 different cameras, from old family photos I scanned, and from photos I got from friends on the web. I have ones I edited in iphoto, photoshop, converted from RAW/Tiff, etc. I figure that it has to work on a large set like this before we unleash it on our alpha testers.
Whoever figures out photo search is going to make bank.
Sadly, we are turning off the trackback feature of this blog because of a major porn splog attack earlier today. To be honest, I never really thought trackbacks were necessary, as long as other people left comments on posts or linked from other blogs. So hopefully their absence won't be missed that much.
Google is testing a program to place ads in print magazines in PC titles. Here's an example of what these look like in PC Magazine. It is not the ads themselves that are interesting. They are just regular ad pages split up into smaller units, with each one including the company's URL. What is interesting is that Google is thinking of ways to expand beyond the Web. It is making national magazine ads more accessible to the small businesses already part of its AdWords network by (presumably) automating the process of buying and placing the ads, just like it's automated the way search ads are bought and placed on the Web.
Ad sales guys and gals everywhere: You are about to be Googled.
Microsoft joins the VoIP craze with its long-rumored acquisition of Teleo. Like recent moves from Google and Yahoo, Microsoft will build Teleo's Internet phone calling features into its MSN Messenger instant messaging program. Here is my earlier take on why all this is happening. (And here). It's not just about cheap calls. It's about what happens when you treat voice like data and integrate it with other applications.
TechCrunch points to a a new startup that just launched called Gahbunga that is basically a Hot or Not date rating service for mobile phones. The comic on the home page (shown above) pretty much explains it all.
Although, why Hot or Not itself or any other existing dating service couldn't offer a mobile version of its site is not clear. Besides that, do you really need your friends to tell you if your date is attractive? Maybe they should call the site "Relationship by Committee."
Sony is getting serious about going after business customers with its new Vaio BX line of laptops that it unveiled today at an event in New York City. The new Vaios, which go on sale starting in October, come with fingerprint security sensors, an optional built-in camera, video over IP software, encrypted Wifi, a built-in modem for Cingular's high-bandwidth wireless Edge data service, and even a slot for an SD memory card (along with a slot for Sony's proprietary memory stick). It also includes so-called bay units that let you swap in and out a CD drive, a DVD burner, or an 80-gigabyte removable hard drive. In the future, new bay units may include a GPS unit or an MP3 voice recorder.
Mike Abary, vice president of Vaio marketing, says that at first, "Tokyo headquarters was resistant" to including the SD slot, but "we told them a business customer really needs more of an open standard, especially IT decision makers." That's a good sign. Maybe the rest of Sony will follow suit and break with their proprietary ways.
With the Vaio BX, Sony is also introducing a new level of customer service for enterprises called Vaio Care and marshalling a salesforce of about 350 people to focus exclusively on breaking into more corporate accounts. "We are trying to make it easier for businesses to do business with Sony," says John Scarralla, head of business sales for Vaio. What took you so long?
An Apple invite to a September 7 announcement has everyone speculating that it is finally going to launch an iPod phone (with Motorola, as part of its Rockr line). Either that or a video iPod, but I bet it's going to be the phone. Instead of a mini hard drive, look for flash storage in this one (that would explain Apple's recent deal with Samsung for flash memory).
The big question in the air is still whether or not the wireless carriers will allow customers with Rockr phones to transfer music from their PCs directly to the phone. They don't make any money that way, but they do make money every time people download music over their networks. I hope Steve Jobs was able to convince them that they would really be crippling the Rockr by charging a tariff for each song. It would be far better for both the customers and the carriers if they let people freely transfer as much music as they want to the iPod phones so that they become addicted to them. Then add features like streaming radio and mobile iTunes downloads that makes money for the carriers.
I, for one, would be much more willing to buy a song on impulse over my cell phone if I already had a lot of my other music on it and I used it as an iPod. If carriers limit the amount of music I can store on the device by charging me for transfering songs I already own, then it is not really an iPod replacement and it will never be as popular as the original.
Check out Pandora. It's a Web-based personal DJ/music recommendation engine. You create stations by typing in the artists or songs that you like, and it creates a streaming playlist of songs with similar music qualities, as determined by the Music Genome Project. The service just launched publicly on Monday. It is really stripped down, and doesn't offer all the bells and whistles of something like Rhapsody. You cannot, for example, create your own playlist. But as a commercial-free digital radio, it has a clean and simple interface that is pretty impressive. I created a Beck station, for instance, and in addition to a healthy dose of Beck songs, it also served up songs from David Bowie, Guided By Voices, and Big Audio Dynamite (anyone remember them?). You can rate each song with a thumbs up or thumbs down, like you can with TV shows on TiVo, to refine your preferences.
It's another good example of a remix business. The first 10 hours are free, and then it costs $36 a year. But I suspect the way it is really going to make money is from referral revenue. For those who want to make a purchase, Pandora takes advantage of APIs from Amazon and iTunes that link each track to the CD or digital download on those respective sites. If Pandora can introduce enough people to enough new music in this way that they subsequently purchase, the subscription fees will be a sideshow.
Update: Some background on the business behind Pandora here.