Facebook really wants to make sure they get the “Face” part of their name down. In a move to do just that, the social networking giant has acquired Tel Aviv-based facial recognition technology company Face.com for an estimated $60 million in cash and shares. In other words, they’re so serious about facial recognition that they were willing to dig through Mark Zuckerberg’s couch cushions to pony up the change.
Face.com, however, isn’t just any ol’ facial recognition tech company you can grab down at the corner store—their specialty is face recognition technology for mobile apps. They offer an API platform for third-party developers that can be put to use in their own original apps.
You can find an example of this technology in Face.com’s very own KLIK app for iOS, which boasts a real-time face recognition feature when snapping photos of Facebook friends on your iPhone. How does it work? Before or after taking a photo, your friend’s name will appear next to their face. If the app doesn’t recognize the person you’re shooting, there’s a “Learn” mode so that the app can improve its recognition of their face. If the software still can’t recognize your friend’s face, you should probably just go ahead and break the bad news to them – their faces are hideously deformed, and thusly, you will no longer be their friend.
So now we’re left with one question: why did Facebook buy Face.com? Simple: they want facial recognition technology on their own mobile apps. As you know from reading my coverage on how shitty Facebook’s presence is in the mobile market, they need help. Badly.
On Face.com’s official blog, the team said, “We love building products, and like our friends at Facebook, we think that mobile is a critical part of people’s lives as they both create and consume content, and share contentwith [sic] their social graph. By working with Facebook directly, and joining their team, we’ll have more opportunities to build amazing products that will be employed by consumers – that’s all we’ve ever wanted to do.”
And that’s exactly what they will be doing now. Facebook’s app is notorious for problems with its facial recognition technology, and the soon-to-be integrated Face.com team is sure to make that aspect of the Facebook experience picture-perfect (feel free to laugh at the pun–it was intended). Every missed opportunity for a face being tagged in one of the 300 million photos being posted daily on Facebook means a missed opportunity to pull in another Facebook user back onto the social platform to see what embarrassing photo they have to untag themselves from. Missed opportunities = missed $$.
Of course, Facebook has been on a mobile technology tear lately to pull up their saggy mobile junk: they purchased Instagram two months ago, integrated the mobile development team from Pieceable, developed their own Camera app, opened up their Facebook App Center, and are now going to be moving the acquired Face.com team to Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto. Whew.
Do you think this recent Face.com acquisition by Facebook and its other moves to improve the mobile aspect of their platform are going to make Facebook a mobile heavyweight contender?