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Microsoft Researching Search By Camera Phone

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The Web Search and Mining group with Microsoft Research Asia thinks the best way to search for information on something you see is by taking a picture of it.

Microsoft Asia Researching Search-By-Camera
Searching Via A Camera? Microsoft Hopes So…

With millions of camera phones in use around the world, the ability to match their photo-taking functions with image search technology looks like an idea that should have arrived by now. And it may have, based on research conducted by Microsoft to develop Photo2Search.

The report noted Microsoft researchers in Asia began considering the issue of camera phones as search input devices in late 2004. “At that time,” said researcher Xing Xie in the report, “the idea was very simple: Use a camera phone to do a Web search. This is very interesting, because inputting images is much more convenient than inputting text queries on a small device.

“This technology 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. But using a picture of the object is very convenient and very easy to deploy.”

Developing a system capable of handling these type of searches with a high degree of accuracy proved a challenge for the researchers. They ended up scrapping work done previously in favor of rebuilding the system in the second half of 2005, using improved computer-vision algorithms to do so.

In May, the researchers will present their findings at a mobile data conference in Japan. They have improved the speed of the search to seconds in their tests, with more improvements being developed.

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


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

Microsoft Researching Search By Camera Phone
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