Google snaps up facial recognition firm

Despite repeated protestations that it has no interest in facial recognition technology, Google has bought Pittsburgh-based pattern recognition company PittPatt.

Founded in 2004 as a spin-off from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh Pattern Recognition (PittPatt) describes itself as a developer of ‘reliable face recognition software for images and video’. Its face detection and tracking SDK locates human faces in photographs and tracks their motion in video.

“At Google, computer vision technology is already at the core of many existing products (such as Image Search, YouTube, Picasa, and Goggles), so it’s a natural fit to join Google and bring the benefits of our research and technology to a wider audience,” says the Pittpatt team on the company website.

“We will continue to tap the potential of computer vision in applications that range from simple photo organization to complex video and mobile applications.”

Google’s largely steered clear of facial recognition, because of obvious privacy concerns. But last year, while CEO Eric Schmidt said the company was ‘unlikely’ to introduce it, he failed to rule it out altogether.

“Anything we did in that area would be highly, highly planned, discussed and reviewed,” he told the Financial Times.

“When you go through these things, you review your management procedures. It is important that we continue to innovate.”

Earlier this year, Google scrapped plans plan to roll out a smartphone app for face recognition. Google Goggles would have allowed users to use photos of people’s faces to access personal information.