Cortica, an Israeli image recognition technology startup, has completed its second round of funding. The funds include a US$ 7 million investment from Hong Kong-based Horizons Ventures and from Ynon Kreiz, the former Chairman and CEO of independent TV production company Endemol Group.
Cortica provides technology that enables computers to comprehend photo and video content on the Internet. The company says its platform can automatically recognize and interpret large amounts of visual data (photos and video) in real time including objects, places, faces, logos, brands, events, products — without false positives.
To develop the platform, Cortica conducted scientific research focused on understanding how neural networks of the human cortex perform complex computational tasks such as identifying patterns, classifying natural signals and understanding concepts.
Facebook, Google Interest Suggests Image Recognition Potential
Although Cortica claims its in-depth image recognition technology offers “vast improvement” over other image recognition systems, the fact remains it is competing in an increasingly crowded marketplace. And recent interest in image recognition shown by IT heavyweights Facebook and Google suggests there is potential for this marketplace to become far more mainstream.
In June 2012, Facebook acquired Face.com, provider of the facial recognition technology Facebook had already been using. Face.com’s technology analyzes uploaded photos, compares them to existing, identified photos, and after matching faces, suggests a name for the uploading user to tag. Face.com will continue to provide tools and support for outside developers.
And in April 2012, Google made a point of including its Google Goggles automatic image recognition into the new Google Drive service that offers cloud storage of images, videos and documents. Initially released in late 2009 as a Google Labs feature, Google Goggles allows users to take a photo of an object, be it a painting in an art gallery, a monument or product and Google can identify it and provide more information.
Image Recognition — Not Just a SciFi Security Tool
In the popular imagination, image recognition is a science fiction security device used to restrict access to the secret lairs of super villains. While image recognition does have security uses, its functionality extends far beyond that realm. Its greatest potential probably lies in its usefulness as a marketing/customer engagement tool.
For example, in March 2012 Forbes ran an article describing how Swedish company OculusAI has used image recognition technology in a mobile app called Productify that lets consumers take a photo of a product and find and purchase similar products on the Internet.
Consumers take photos of products they want to buy (currently product types are limited), and the app finds images of similar products on the sites of online retailers and furnishes links to buy them. Maybe not as exciting as an evil genius protecting the underground fortress where they are planning to conquer the world, but a lot more practical for everyday use.
Cortica was founded by neuroscientists Professor Yehoshua Zeevi and Karina Odinaev and engineer Igal Raichelgauz at the Technion technology institute in Israel. Cortica's commercial team will relocate to the US and will be based in New York, with an office in Silicon Valley. The first commercial applications of the technology will focus on advertising, search and image analytics. As part of the investment deal, Kreiz joins Cortica as chairman while founder Igal Raichelgauz continues as CEO. Cortica had previously raised US$ 4 million from a group of angel investors.