Why fuss with vague or complex search strings to find information about a product that you’re holding in your hands? Sure, semantic and contextual search engines help narrow down your search to the most likely hits by “reading between the lines,” but they still require you to describe the object you’re searching for. That’s where visual search technologies come in.
KDDI has just announced that their intention to put the Bandai Networks-powered visual search application, dubbed ER Search, on their Spring 2008 au line of cameraphones. The visual search application allows users to take a picture of an object with their cameraphone and send the picture to a server. In a few moments, the service will return relevant content regarding the object of interest – all without having to enter a single search query.
Customers with previous version of au cameraphones will also be offered the ER Search visual search application.
It’s unclear how Bandai’s ER Search business model works, but it’s likely safe to presume that referral fees for viewing product information or commissions off product sales will fuel the application’s success. Visual search is a great idea and we can only hope that the tech will make it Stateside sooner than later.
Press release on the link.
Speaking of bringing visual search technology to us Yankees. Stefan found this video of the ViPR visual search engine being demonstrated with an iPhone. Just imagine how cool this tech will be once the search engine and image-processing server are integrated into a natively installed application for any and all cameraphones out there. Of course, there will always be a place for text-based search, but visual search is going to change the entire search-game.
Breakthrough Visual Search Engine for Mobile Phones Takes off Big in Japan
KDDI, Japan’s major mobile carrier, and Bandai Networks, a leading mobile content provider in Japan, make Evolution Robotics’ ViPR® recognition system a standard feature for newest KDDI camera phones
PASADENA, Calif. & TOKYO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Evolution Robotics Inc., a leading robotics technology company, in partnership with Bandai Networks Co. Ltd, Japan’s leading mobile content provider, announced today that KDDI Corporation is including the “ER Search” visual search engine on its new Spring 2008 “au™” line of camera phones, and has made it available for download for any KDDI customer with a prior “au” camera phone. This launch marks a dramatic expansion in the market for mobile visual search, which will enable millions of consumers in Japan alone to do online searches by taking pictures of everyday objects with their camera phone.
The deployment of this technology in the mass market also opens up an entirely new range of categories of services for mobile marketing, which is already projected to grow to $24 Billion worldwide by 2013. (Source: ABI Research)
ER Search is a mobile search engine operated by Bandai Networks and powered by Evolution Robotics’ ViPR visual pattern recognition system. It works essentially like using a traditional search engine, but without having to type any text or go through complicated menus. Instead, users simply snap a picture of something they’re interested in and immediately get back relevant content, all in the palm of the hands.
As an example, KDDI customers will be able to take a picture of a music CD that would return links relating to the artist, hear clips from the album and purchase songs to download on their phone. If they are shopping for wine in a store, they can take a picture of the wine label and get expert reviews and recommendations on the spot. Or, if they are browsing through a catalog and see an item they’d like to buy, they can order it immediately by snapping a picture of the item on the page.
“ER Search is an entirely new way for connecting consumers with content and companies,” said Satoshi Oshita, CEO of Bandai Networks. “Because ER Search runs on mobile phones, searches happen when and where the customer is, as soon as they see something that they’re interested in. Additionally, the fact that a customer simply has to click a picture of a product or advertisement, makes the search process far easier and immediate than anything that has been available before.”
“We are very pleased to be working with Bandai Networks and are excited to see the momentum building in the Japanese market,” said Paolo Pirjanian, President and CEO of Evolution Robotics. “Our mission is to take aerospace-grade technologies and make them affordable for mass market applications, and ER Search is a great example. We see this as just the start of a growing market for visual search in Asia and other parts of the globe and are actively working with our partners to expand the range of services that can benefit consumers and companies alike.”
Bandai Networks had already deployed ER Search on over one million phones in Japan in 2007. With this deployment with KDDI, the number of users with access to ER Search will expand by millions more in a very short time, making it even more compelling for companies and advertisers to participate in the service.
The ViPR technology easily supports user-generated content so that users can take new pictures of objects, images, videos or even locations and tag them with links and content to expand the database. That content will then show up in the results returned to other users who take similar pictures, thus creating a robust world-wide visual database for communities to develop and access.
(A video demonstration of Evolution Robotics’ visual search technology running on Apple’s iPhone can be seen at: http://www.youtube.com/user/EvolutionRobotics)
ER Search’s versatility rests in Evolution Robotics’ breakthrough ViPR visual recognition technology. ViPR is able to learn new objects and images on the fly (such as the cover art on a music CD), without the need for any special encoding such as barcodes or watermarks. Just as significant, ViPR performs well on low cost components such as the cameras used on most mobile phones today, even when lighting and other visual conditions are poor.
For the music search application alone, Bandai Networks has over 150,000 music CD covers already indexed in their database. Other mobile marketing and mobile commerce applications include providing content and links for print ads, book covers, DVDs, product packaging, movie posters, retail displays, business signs, etc. Even animation, streaming video or images from live TV can be supported.
About Evolution Robotics
Evolution Robotics, Inc. is based in Pasadena, CA, and partners with brand leaders to make their products smarter by providing solutions for vision, autonomous navigation and intelligence. From toys to cell phones and vacuum cleaners to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) the company has over 2 million products on the market through partners such as Sony, Bandai and Sharper Image. Evolution Robotics is an operating company of Idealab, a creator and operator of technology businesses.
About Bandai Networks
Established as a subsidiary of Bandai Co., Ltd. in September of 2000, Bandai Networks is a member of the company, Bandai Namco group. Bandai Networks builds on Bandai Namco group’s strength in character merchandising and adds an expertise in server management and applications, innovative concepts, and strategic business partnering to operate a wide variety of mobile phone and Internet content services. Bandai Networks currently boasts 3.6 million subscribers to its domestic pay mobile phone services. For more information about Bandai Networks, please visit http://www.bandai-net.com/.
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