Google nabs AI startup to help phones see better

As computers around the world get smarter and more powerful, internet heavyweight Google is determined to stay ahead of the game.

The company said on Wednesday that it is buying a French artificial intelligence company called Moodstocks that specializes in image recognition.

Moodstocks focuses on building image-recognition capabilities into phones, and first introduced software that could do this back in 2012. Over the past two and a half years it has extended its reach into physical object recognition, the company says on its website.

Joining forces with Google, Moodstocks said, will allow the company “to deploy our work at scale” and “build great image recognition tools within Google.”

Google has already been working on its own computer vision tech that allows phones to understand the world around them, under the name of Project Tango. This is mainly designed to allow for indoor navigation, 3D mapping and augmented reality, but it is easy to see how sophisticated object recognition software would boost Tango’s ability to read a room.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment about how it intends to use Moodstocks’ tech.

Over the past three years, Silicon Valley tech titans have been cherry-picking startups in the AI field and incorporating their smarts into their existing portfolios. They frequently look to Europe to find AI startups that will complement their work, including Google’s 2013 acquisition of London-based DeepMind, which has since spawned gaming champion AI AlphaGo and several cutting-edge health projects. Only last month Twitter purchased its own British image recognition startup, Magic Pony.

Moodstocks will be discontinuing image recognition services soon to its existing customers, but the companies say they will be able to use the services until the end of their current subscriptions. The company’s acquisition by Google is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.

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