Thursday, January 13, 2005

Physical Hyperlinking The World

Good thoughts.

From The Feature Hyperlinking the World.

While most of us snap silly candids with our cameraphones, computer vision researcher Hartmut Neven is leveraging the ubiquity of digital cameras to google the world.

A physical world Google?

I state what a world with physical world hyperlinks would look like here.

For computer vision researcher Hartmut Neven, the proliferation of cameraphones is an opportunity to put his life's work into every consumer's pocket. Neven, the head of the Laboratory for Human-Machine Interfaces at the University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute, has developed image-recognition software optimized for mobile phone microprocessors. His technology, sold through start-up Neven Vision, already powers gimmicky MMS services from Vodafone Japan and NTT DoCoMo that automatically overlay special effects like tears or a halo on cameraphone video images.

Neven's eyes are on the future though. His long-term goal is to bring biometrics to the mobile masses and hyperlink the world through a system best described as "a visual Google."

Neven: You take a picture of something, send it to our servers, and we either provide you with more information or link you to the place that will.

I would think the size of that database would be infinite. Why not start with "pictures" that are already in a database? "Pictures" of images that are already considered universal. These can be words, numbers..etc.

Let's say you're standing in front of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. You take a snapshot with your cameraphone and instantly receive an audio-visual narrative about the painting. Then you step out of the Louvre and see a cafe. Should you go in? Take a shot from the other side of the street and a restaurant guide will appear on your phone. You sit down inside, but perhaps your French is a little rusty. You take a picture of the menu and a dictionary comes up to translate.

There is a huge variety of people in these kinds of situations, from stamp collectors, to people who want to check their skin melanoma, to police officers who need to identify the person in front of them.

TheFeature: But how do you seed such a massive database of objects?

Neven: The key is to start with well-defined segments where the cost and effort of building the database is not that large.

The analogy I would use is a library. You dont go into a library and ask for a book on bugs by author Joe Smith and expect the librarian to find it by scanning all of books in the library. The librarian looks up either the title or author in a database that is universal amongst all libraries. That way the search is quicker and will provide the same results to all.

Another example the phone number. There are thousands of people with the phone number 342-8363, but by adding a prefix of 212, then the country code 1 you have identified the one person in the world with that number. Just apply the same principle to images.

A nice rollout example would be a movie guide. If you see a billboard of a movie on a bus, you take a shot of it and then are routed to a relevant site where you can download a trailer or get show times. All we would need are images of a couple hundred billboards. The same is true with the Louvre example, where a collection of images already exists.

Instead of putting couple hundred billboard images in a database, the data is already on those billboards. Its the words or a UPC code. Soon an rfid tag will put on all of these items and you wont even have to take a picture, just wave your phone near it for identification.

The variable you have to consider, and its a biggie, is the distance from the image the cameraphone takes the picture. That in itself will create many versions of the same endless database for just one image. Lighting conditions, pixels, weather consitions are others.

Neven: Mobile advertising is a natural place to start this and get the kinks out. You could take a picture of the new BMW and automatically be entered into a sweepstakes. An advertising campaign would create awareness about this technology so people would learn how to use it.

Don't you think BMW would like to know you have interest in their prodcut and be willing to pay for this info too? BMW could directly market to you now. Efficient, dynamic, one-on-one marketing.

IN some ways,it's already being done. Corvette just introduced a way for people to get the new Z06 model pictures to text a number and get images sent back to them.

My thinking is to keep it simple to gain acceptability. I agree though that a server that can resolve images of any kind will be huge going forward.

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