Ambarish Mitra, CEO of London start-up Blippar, came out with the bold statement last year that what he was working on could be “bigger than the internet itself.”
Mitra revealed the fruits of his work, sending news sources around the world into a frenzy of sensationalist, free advertising.
“Blipparsphere” is a “visual browser” that uses machine learning to recognize real-world objects. Users fire up the iOS or Android Blippar app and point their smartphone camera at any object. A chair, a bicycle (as illustrated in the fancy graphic above), or maybe even a sexbot.
The app then uses Blippar’s “proprietary knowledge graph” to analyse the object’s characteristics and suggest what it might be — based on its previous performance of recognizing similar objects — and then offer additional useful information about it from the web.
In other words, instead of looking at a bicycle and having a flashback to a childhood memory of eating dirt with your biker friends, you can do a google search and find images of children riding bikes, because that’s not creepy at all…
Suggestions appear in a circle on the middle of the smartphone screen, while other words related to the characteristics of that object or other similar objects buzz around it.
The aim is for the machine learning database to build a visual catalog of every object in the world — from animals and people that move around, to plants that often change their characteristics day-to-day, to logos and landmarks, and millions of other mundane objects.
The algorithm will also learn about the user themselves, suggesting a cluster of objects that are likely relevant to that individual person, based on the kinds of things they have pointed their phone at before.
Awesome, a complete database of everything in the known universe and the means for a semi-sentient being to decipher and understand it, because if we don’t destroy humanity by war, famine, disease, global warming or modified food then we can at least count on technology rising up against us and finishing the job.
In all seriousness, this is starting to sound like the origin story of a mega-villain straight out of a Philip K. Dick novel. So, let’s continue!
Business Insider was given a demo of the Blipparsphere at the company’s London office last month.
“Sure enough, when I pointed the smartphone camera at a chair, the coffee machine, a spoon, a banana, and a television set, the app instantly recognized what the objects were. Keen to ensure I was not being subjected to a controlled environment, with objects that have been tested dozens of times by Blippar’s staff, I pulled out a pen from my bag. The app recognized it. Someone nearby had their rucksack next to them on the table. The app instantly recognized the Nike logo on the pocket. Pointing the smartphone camera out of the window, the app recognized the small objects speeding across London Bridge below were automobiles.”
Mitra explained that if a human could reasonably guess what a dish is, or what ingredients it contains, it’s likely the Blippar app could do a good job of it too.