Google buys France-based Moodstocks, which makes image recognition tech for smartphones

Two weeks after Twitter acquired Magic Pony to advance its machine learning smarts for improving users’ experience of photos and videos on its platform, Google is following suit. Today, the maker of Android and search giant announced that it has acquired Moodstocks, a startup based out of Paris that develops image recognition technology for smartphones whose APIs for developers have been described as “Shazam for images.”

The API and SDK will be discontinued “soon”, according to an announcement on Moodstocks’ homepage. “Our focus will be to build great image recognition tools within Google, but rest assured that current paying Moodstocks customers will be able to use it until the end of their subscription,” the company noted.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed and it’s not clear how much Moodstocks had raised: CrunchBase doesn’t note any VC money, although when we first wrote about the company way back in 2010 we noted that it had raised $500,000 in seed money from European investors. As a point of reference, Twitter paid a whopping $150 million in cash for its UK acquisition of Magic Pony the other week.

While Magic Pony was young and was acquired while still largely under the radar, Moodstocks has been around since 2008, all the while working around the basic premise of improving image recognition via mobile devices. “Our dream has been to give eyes to machines by turning cameras into smart sensors able to make sense of their surroundings,” the company writes in its acquisition/farewell/hello note.

Google doesn’t specify whether it will be launching its own SDK for developers to incorporate more imaging services into apps. What it does say is that it will be bringing Moodstocks’ team — the startup was co-founded by Denis Brule and Cedric Deltheil — and the company’s tech into its R&D operation based in France.

In a short statement, Vincent Simonet, who heads up that center, says Google sees Moodstocks’ work contributing to better image searches, a service that is of course already offered in Google but is now going to be improved. “We have made great strides in terms of visual recognition,” he writes (in French), “but there is still much to do in this area.”

Like Magic Pony, Moodstocks uses machine learning algorithms to help Google’s searches “learn” more about how to find images that are similar and/or related to verbal search terms. On smartphones this is ever more essential: the challenges include the fact that users are less inclined to enter text; and may be using their own (poor quality) images to find similar ones.

Google has made other acquisitions in France, including FlexyCore (also for improving smartphone performance). It’s also made a number of acquisitions to improve its tech in imaging, such as JetPac and PittPatt for facial recognition.

More to come.

Featured Image: Vincent Isore/Getty Images

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