Last night I had the pleasure to have Danish serial entrepreneur Nikolaj Nyholm over for dinner with 3 of my four kids. Nikolaj and I share many things, we are active dads (Nikolaj has 3 children ages 7 to 1), we have both started WiFi companies along a similar model, he started Organic Networks and I started Fon, and we are now both experimenting with novel uses of photography on the internet, in his case Polar Rose and in mine Twitxr. During dinner we spoke about different subjects, some had little to do with the internet and were centered more around my children and these included the pros and cons of the highly unusual British High School system that my children attend (this matter deserves another post) and others related to the internet and specificially Polar Rose.
Polar Rose has 21 employees focused on one complex subject and that is to build an intelligent competitor to Google Image searches. Now this is what is going on at Polar Rose now. Let´s take my son Tom Varsavsky as an example. These are the results of googling Tom Varsavsky´s images. As you can see results are all over the place. There are pictures of my baby Son Leo instead of him, pictures of Esther Dyson instead of him, and many pictures of me instead of him. Now Polar Rose only has only two pictures of Tom Varsavsky as its results. But they are indeed pictures of Tom. Now what Polar Rose is aiming at doing is to develop an image crawling technology that can actually crawl the net for pictures and recognize without human intervention the faces of people. During our brainstorming I gave Nikolaj sugestions that I thought would help him advance his venture. One was to work with us at Twitxr since at Twitxr many people are taking pictures of people and we could cross link with Polar Rose and help Polar Rose increase its membership of recognized individuals from its current 189.000. But Twitxr is nothing compared to the number of people that are being tagged at Facebook every day. Not a week goes by with me getting a message that says, such and such a person tagged a picture of you. I wonder if Facebook would be open to allow these information be public provided that Facebookers authorize it. And then there´s the opportunity to crawl flickr. When I went to Polar Rose for example and tried to find my friend Jack Hidary he was not tagged yet. But Flickr had public pictures of him. As Nikolaj remarked what is interesting about Polar Rose is that its technology can find the right person in group pictures.
My conclusion after talking to Nikolaj is that while Polar Rose still has way to go and it is in a very early stage what they are trying to do has a market because as gossip magazines show people are extremely attracted to pictures of people, for all sorts of reasons, and Google Images is both number one and still a very mediocre product (with all respect to Google who are my investors at Fon).
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