In one of the most ambitious projects to date for associating real-world objects with digital information about them, a team from Microsoft Research Asia is in the final stages of developing a platform for photo-based searches. Rather straightforwardly called Photo2Search, the technology was developed against the backdrop of a growing cameraphone market, whose widespread adoption is bringing portable computing to the masses but whose limited input options continue to deliver a frustrating search experience. Project leader Xing Xie came up with the idea for a database that could be queried via texted or emailed phone pics in late 2004, but at the time both machine-based photo identification and computer-vision algorithms were too slow and rudimentary to suit their needs. Over a year of work has refined the technology to make it faster, but more importantly, relevant -- unlike older software, Xie's version is now able to discern features that allow it to match specific objects and not just those which share similar characteristics. Unfortunately there are no immediate plans for rolling out this technology to consumers (it's still not quite ready for primetime, apparently), but since most of today's phones produce photos that are little more than a pixelated mess, we're probably not quite ready either.

[Via picturephoning and MocoNews]

Ask HD Beat: DVD recorder with HDMI and DivX