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Lucy Griffiths

Google Acquire Plink to Further Invest in Visual Mobile Search

12th Apr 2010 News, Industry News 2 minutes to read

Plink, the UK start-up and developers of PlinkArt, have been acquired by Google as the search giant looks to further develop their visual search capabilities.

You might not be immediately aware of who Plink are, but Android phone users will certainly be aware of what they do. Anybody who has used Google Goggles, the search feature based on image recognition [see: Google Goggles for Android Powered Mobile Phones, including Nexus], will have used technology that is similar to PlinkArt; which uses the same principle to identify works of art.

Whilst the investment in Plink is just one of many small acquisitions that Google make each year, this one perhaps stands out more than most. Google Goggles is still something of a novelty. It doesn’t yet have any widespread usage and certainly isn’t a threat to conventional text-based search. However, far from giving up on this technology, Google have clearly signalled their intention to develop it quickly.

The PlinkArt blog broke the news this morning. In the post they suggest that they won’t be looking to take the PlinkArt platform forward, which gained 50,000 users in four weeks, but instead would ‘focus development efforts on Google Goggles’.

With the huge developments in mobile internet technology and the boom in smartphone ownership, mobile search is a rapidly growing market. This new portable, scaled down version of the Internet, featured in phones with numerous integrated features like voice and camera capabilities, presents a unique challenge for search engines. It also puts a huge local emphasis on search, with users looking not only for relevance in terms of phrase or image, but also location [see: Google Reveal Local Emphasis for Mobile Search]

People want information on the go. They want it to be accurate and they need it quickly. As such, the search engines have to evolve in an effort to adapt to changing user attitudes. Google Goggles provides a potential avenue for ongoing development.

Whilst it is very much in its infancy, Google Goggles has the potential to take visual mobile search forward. What affect that could have on traditional text-based search and algorithms is difficult to determine at this stage. What we do know though is that search is in a transitional period.

Google’s acquisition of Plink might not be the most eye-catching investment in 2010, but it certainly could have major long-term implications for search. This is also one of the most telling moves since CEO Eric Schmidt claimed that Google were a ‘mobile first company’ [see: Google to Focus Attention on Mobile Search Advertising]. With Google clearly taking visual search seriously, Android users can look forward to some significant developments around the Goggles feature in the not too distant future.

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