Google Adds Facial Recognition, Taps Neven Vision Technology

Google's online free photo organization tool, Picasa Web Albums, was upgraded today, adding facial recognition capabilities acquired two years ago from Santa Monica-based firm Neven Vision. Google said Tuesday that the firm's Picasa Web Albums service, which is used by web users to store and share their photographs, will now allow users to tag faces in photos on the web site, and automatically finds and tags people it thinks it recognizes. The new feature--"name tags"--is based on technology Google bought from Neven Vision in August of 2006. Google bought Neven Vision specifically for the firm's image recognition software, which was being used to automatically extract information from photos. Google's new "name tags" feature looks for similar faces in photo collections, and helps users tag those photos within the Web Albums service. The upgrade of Picasa Web Albums came at the same time as an upgrade of the firm's Windows-based photo organizing and editing tool, Picasa. Neven Vision was backed by Anthem Ventures, Zone Ventures, Third Wave Ventures, and NTEC. Picasa itself is another Southern California acquisition of Google's, having been bought in 2004 from Pasadena-based Idealab.