Friday, April 14, 2006

Microsoft Connects The Physical World With Camera Phone

Finally Microsoft sees the big "picture".

In my opinion Microsoft's announcement of Photo2Search ,will send ripples through the mobile world. It will also be the tipping point for mobile marketing, mobile search and physical world connection adoption.
The camera on your mobile phone is your "mouse" and every physical object has, or will become, a physical world hyperlink, Phase 2 of the Internet begins.

This is how Microsoft can beat Google.

Microsoft introduces Photo2Search

Xie, a researcher for the Web Search and Mining group within Microsoft Research Asia, is working on technology called Photo2Search, which is designed to provide information on the go for users of camera phones.

“As the old saying goes,” Xie says, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Gates already made reference to this.

Maybe more, actually. Photo2Search gives users a way to search a Web-based database by using nothing more than an image captured by a cellphone equipped with a digital camera.

“This technology,” Xie says, “aims to solve the problem of mapping a physical-world object to a digital-world object. You see an object in the physical world, and you want to know the corresponding information in the digital world—for example, its price on the Web, user comments, or Web sites.

There are many different solutions. You can use a bar code or radio-frequency identification.

Microsoft is probably already developing an RFID browser. But using a picture of the object is very convenient and very easy to deploy.”

Photo2Search works like this: Seeking information about something seen, a user takes a photo of the object and sends the photo, via e-mail or Multimedia Messaging Service, to a Web-based server, which searches an image database for matches.

The server then delivers database information—whether it be a Web page featuring the object in the photo or information associated with the object—to the user, who can act on the information received: read a menu, enter a gallery, book a hotel room, make a purchase.

Now that Microsoft has announced their intent to connect the physical world with a mobile phone, look for this space to heat up quickly. Who companies are ripe for the picking? Any one of these


Dean Collins said...

How is this any different to who were already exibiting real product at CTIA 2006?

Scott Shaffer said...

There are a few companies that offer this ability.

A few presented their technology at the CTIA show and some privately demonstrated how they are able to connect to the NET using ALL forms of physical world hyperlinks.

Stay tuned..this space is finally getting hot.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that what's going to happen with this space is this.

People are going to realize that trying to recover information using generalized image recognition is far too unreliable to be of use. Speech recognition will find an opportunity here and there where it will be dependable enough for consumer use.

But, on the whole, people will settle on 2D codes and on an occasional RFID chip for the useful things they want to have done. 1D codes will do what they can do as legacy codes: provide product related info -- useful, but limited.

There's a reason bar codes are everywhere, and why generalized machine recognition is rarely found: bar codes work (that's what they are designed for!); generalized machine recognition doesn't. (Why don't they have vision systems to detect whether you bought pears or apples, and do what otherwise has to be entered by hand by the cashier? Because such a system would never work reliably).

Scott Shaffer said...

What companies should be smiling and who has a frown?

Can Yahoo or Google stop Microsoft now?

What did Microsoft mean with those press releases a few weeks back?

Who is sitting on a mobile goldmine but doesn't realize it yet?

Want to know what I would do if I was Yahoo or Google right now?

Stay tuned......

Anonymous said...

May I make the simple point that this whole thing might be made about a thousand times more credible by a demonstration that works reliably across a large variety of target images?

Remember all that great handwriting recognition software in early PDAs that promoters couldn't stop talking about? How'd that work out?

Well, suffice it to say, this problem is several bazillion times harder.

Anonymous said...

"The searchable database still needs to be a predefined collection of images, but they can be harvested from the Web. Manual annotation and organization are then employed to enhance performance."

Then, how do you monetize the use of this database? Charge for registering/storing? Charge for using? Charge if a "commercial transaction" ensues? Interesting....

Also, "“The coolest thing,” Xie says, “is that you can use a pure image as a query, with no text. That is a totally new search experience.”"

Once camera phones have better lenses/pixels, maybe you won't need a barcode scanner, just a decent picture of the bars...better yet, just the numbers under the bars.

Scott Shaffer said...

Images replace words (keywords) for search queries.

Anonymous said...

Goldmine? I wonder who owns Flikr?....or could MySpace help out in creating the database? Caution: Watch for elephants stomping around in a landrush to lay claim to new territory!

Anonymous said...

Goldmine? I wonder who owns Flikr?....or could MySpace help out in creating the database? Caution: Watch for elephants stomping around in a landrush to lay claim to new territory!

Anonymous said...

Scott, Did you have a chance to check out Neven Visions product recently and see how it really works. Did you get to bring real world examples and not demo's from the company table? Also, same thing for Neomedia and paperclick. Did you try it out on real world products and did it work?

Scott Shaffer said...

I saw all of the PWC companies that I wanted to see.

After seeing numerous demonstrations, I have a much better understanding of what will work (or is working) and what wont.

I came away with a much different view.

I'm not going to let the cat out of the bag just yet.

Anonymous said...

Scott, are you saying that somthing at CTIA changed your mind on PWC companies. What do you mean when you say that you came away with a "much different view"???

Anonymous said...

Why were you so persistent in getting Microsofts Dick Scoble to meet with Chas Fritz of Neomedia for lunch and to see a demo of PaperClick?


Scott Shaffer said...

After speaking to a few of the PWC companies, and their engineers, I came away with a "much different view".

Not being a "hardware guy", some of the engineers/techies from these companies showed me what's behind the curtain so to speak.

I have a much better understanding of what will work (is working) and how.

Thank you to those guys.

Anonymous said...

Scott, a little too cryptic. Could you tell me what you thought about Neven Visions product and Neomedias product and their ability to work in the real world. You don't have to give away any secrets. Did they or did they not work? Or, did you choose not to visit these two companies? Thanks in advance.

Scott Shaffer said...

I don't think it would be right for me to critique each application in a public forum.

Some of the companies I met with have never been mentioned on PP (and wish to remain that way) and it wouldn't be fair to leave them out of the review.

Anonymous said...

Your approach to this whole thing has grown tiresome. This space is going to do what its going to do regardless of what Scott Shafer thinks, or thinks he thinks. There is more ego and manipulation here than there is "secret" substance.

Anonymous said...

This this post online since Friday offers an excellent overview on camera phone searching including info one company, Mobot, (as noted in another coment) and one project, Semacode, that's been doing it for several years. You'll also read more about content based image retrieval and Semapedia, a small project offering camera phone searching of some Wikipedia entries. It also points out that comparison price info via camera phone has been available in Japan since 2003.