Amazon quietly acquired a Californian AI startup that can tell what's in your photos

Back in Autumn 2015, Amazon quietly acquired a Californian artificial intelligence startup that specialises in photo-recognition technology, according to a new report from Bloomberg.

The publication bases its story on an unidentified source “familiar with the matter” — as well as the fact the startup’s website is now owned by an Amazon subsidiary.

If you visit the website of Orbeus — the company Amazon has apparently acquired — now, you’re greeted by by a short message saying it “is no longer taking new customers. Thank you very much for your interest and support. But we’re up to new/exciting things.”

But last year, its website boasted that its “revolutionary image recognition technology helps computers to see like human beings.”

Using neural networking AI, its software worked out what was in photos, and was implemented in a consumer-facing app called PhotoTime, and as well as an API called ReKognition.

This kind of photo-recognition tech is increasingly finding its way into consumer apps. Google’s Photos app automatically detects what’s in your photos and categorises them appropriately, and just this week Facebook announced an update to its app that would detect the contents of photos using AI to help blind people use its social network.

Amazon, like Facebook and Google, is putting increasing focus on AI. In March, it held an invite-only conference for the machine learning and robotics community.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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