Google buys startup that helps your phone identify objects

"There's still a long way to go with machine learning."

Google has purchased Moodstocks, a French startup that specializes in speedy object recognition from a smartphone, showing (again) the search giant's intense interest in AI. Unlike other products (including Google's own Goggles object recognition app) Moodstocks does most of the crunching on your smartphone, rather than on a server. While Google seemingly has some pretty good image-spotting tech already, like the canny visual categorization in Photos, it says it's just getting started.

"There is still a long way to go [with machine learning], and that's where Moodstocks comes in," the company said in a blog post (translated). The deal seems to fall in to the "aqui-hire" category, as Moodstocks will cease its own recognition services, and its team of engineers will join Google at its R&D center in Paris. Google is rumored to be working on a feature that allows Android users to search directly from their photos (below), though the company didn't say if the acquisition is related.

Google isn't the only company pursuing deep learning and image recognition. Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Amazon and basically most of Silicon Valley are enamored of the tech. It's already being used in voice recognition apps like Alexa, Cortana and Siri, and image recognition products like Google's Photos and Microsoft's Translator app. Other deep learning applications include driverless cars, robotic concierges, cooking, weather forecasting, writing criticism and infinitely more.

Most of those apps rely on powerful servers like IBM's Watson, but the latest trend is to speed things up by processing data on your device. Apple's iOS 10, for instance, will rely less on cloud computing and more on the iPhone's built in horsepower for image recognition. Google's purchase of Moodstocks appears to be along the same lines, as the startup has expertise in "thick client" computing, which uses a combination of cloud and "on-device" computing.