Riya : Next Best Thing?

Google are out shopping again so it seems and rumours are abound that they’ve just purchased Riya, a tech startup in the US specialising in facial recognition software. When one company spends $40,000,000 on another very small company, it has to raise a few eyebrows. It raised mine, and for those of you who don’t know what Riya is, here’s the lowdown.

I first took an interest in this line of software through a project in Waterford IT last year which involved adding facial profiling to a dating website (getting a match to someone of your tastes based on their facial features as opposed to their own attributes), but this is pretty clever material.

Our face recognition technology automatically tags people in photos so you can search for just the photo you want. In your album. In your friend’s album. On the web.

Sounds like magic stuff, certainly gives it a similar sound to Flickr based on the whole tagging element – but here’s where it gets interesting.

Riya users train the software, which requires a downloadable Windows client, by identifying, or tagging, individuals in their photos.

As Riya learns who’s in your pictures, it begins to auto-tag the snaps itself, quickly scanning the rest of your photos and identifying each person it recognizes. Riya also uses text recognition to read street signs and other text in photos.

Not only that, but it can decipher genders, locations (based on street signs), family connections and more.

Photos can and will be made either public or private. My only worry about this type of service is the information thats available. If Riya recognises other people’s tags and not just your own, then we got ourselves an invasion of privacy to a global level. You wouldn’t need to ask for names any longer, just take someone’s photo, upload it, and *presto* – Riya tells you who they are and if the person next to them in the photo is a relation or not…

Nevertheless, its miles off, it’s still alpha – but Google can see its certain potential – can you?