Riya photo search site open to public February

Riya, a face recognition based photo search service, to be available to the public from February.

Riya, which hosts a photo search service based on face and text recognition, announced Thursday that its service will be available to the public from Feb. 6.

The service on the company's site http://www.riya.com is currently available only to a few users who are testing the service, Munjal Shah, chief executive officer and cofounder of Riya, told reporters in Bangalore Thursday.

Using face recognition and text recognition technology, the photo search service, also called Riya, identifies people and text in digital photos and tags them accordingly, Shah said.

Google Image Search from Google searches images by looking for text around the photo, while Riya's technology searches using information in the photo, Shah added.

Users will have to download a software client from the Riya site to a computer running the Windows operating system, and thereafter the software will index the images on the user's hard disk, and upload it to Riya's servers, according to Azhar Khan, Riya's vice president for engineering and a co-founder of the company.

Users then train the face recognition software on the site by identifying or tagging individuals in their photos. "The more examples of an individual that you provide the software, the higher the accuracy when the software does auto-tagging," Khan said.

Photos uploaded to the free service for tagging can be made private or public, or selectively public, according to rules set by the user, Khan added.

Riya, a start-up in California, expects its revenue to come primarily from contextual advertising on the site, Shah said. The technology for face recognition and text recognition in photos developed by the company is also likely to be of interest for other applications such as dating sites, and the company may consider licensing its technology to these sites, he added.

Down the line technology will also be made available on http://www.riya.com for searching photos on the web. "You will be able to do a similarity search by dropping a photo in the search bar," Shah said. However, the photos on the web are usually of a poor quality and resolution, and so accuracy may not be very high, he added.

Media reports last year had suggested that Google was attempting to buy up Riya. Shah however declined to comment on the reports.

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