Text is Your URL: Google Acquires/Licenses Exbiblio, B.V. Technology

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Use your smartphone camera to take a picture of text in a newspaper, a magazine article, or a book, and if it’s available online you can access it electronically. Take an image of a print advertisement and you may be able to visit an online transaction page to make a secure transaction.

Snap a shot of a phone number and click on it to make the call. Capture an address and you can pull up a map showing you were that address is located. In addition to Web documents, you can use Exbiblio to access your own documents on your computer.

Looking through the USPTO assignment database, I noticed that Google had been assigned a majority of the pending and granted patents assigned to Exbiblio this past February. The video below describes some of the features and functionality that Exbibilio’s technology offers, and notes that their intellectual property is available for licensing.

Did Google acquire the company, or did they just license Exbiblio’s technology? I’m not sure at this time. Oddly, the videos that were available on the Exbiblio website no longer work, but they are available on the Exbiblio YouTube Channel.

These are the pending and granted patents that have been assigned to Google:

Pending Patent Applications

Granted Patents

The many features described in the patent filings and in the video add considerably to the capabilities that Google is working upon in offerings such as Google Goggles or as described in their patents on Visual Search.

If you have an iPhone, you can try out Exbiblio’s PhoneQi for free.

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36 thoughts on “Text is Your URL: Google Acquires/Licenses Exbiblio, B.V. Technology”

  1. Interesting, Google continues to purchase and acquire at a rate of knots. I found the recent acquisition of Metaweb very interesting and now this. The number of patents granted or pending is significant.
    I’m struggling a little to think of the applications of this technology though, at least from a SEO perspective. Could Google eventually begin to crawl and index the offline world? That’s a bit dystopian but maybe an eventual possiblity.
    What are your thoughts Bill?

  2. Hi Michael

    As Google expands it’s grasp over search to include images and print publications, chances are that there are some people who will try to manipulate and take advantage of those medium. It wouldn’t be suprising.

  3. Hi Twosteps

    The Metaweb acquisition was pretty interesting, as were the acquisition/licensing of patents from Verizon, IBM and Zetawire and now these from Exbiblio. Overall that’s more than a couple of hundred granted and pending patents in a few short months.

    Google has already started to crawl the offline world with both their streetviews technology and with things like their book scanning project.

    Given the incredible amount of growth of mobile technology and mobile search, it’s not a surprise that they are actively engaged in doing more with search than indexing the web. Having someone able to take a picture of a poster, a product box, a landmark, and many other objects and either learn more about those objects or perform some kind of transaction seems to be what we are going to see in the future.

    The Exbiblio patents provide a lot of new possibilities.

    After seeing this, I’d definitely recommend that promotional print posters include URLs, and even telephone numbers if appropriate. If a specific logo is used on a product box, that logo should appear on a webpage that someone might be brought to if someone takes a picture of the logo and searches for it. I think there are other “SEO” ideas that can be developed out of this technology – it’s going to make things interesting.

  4. Where exactly did you observe that Google is the assignee? In some cases their is no assignee or Exbiblio is the assignee?

  5. Hi Pete,

    Some patent filings indicate whom they are assigned to when they are published, but if they are subsequently assigned to someone else, the documents aren’t amended to show that new assignment. The USTPO has an online assignment database where assignments are recorded, and where people can search to see which patent filings have been assigned to whom. That is where I located the assignments.

  6. One more step toward Terminator vision. Can you imagine if you integrated this kind of technology into a pair of glasses, or technology willing, contact lenses? Anything you might ever want to know would be a wink away. We’re getting to the point where the technology that is being produced is beyond even my own imagination. I mean, at 8 years old I was wondering when we would get hand held computers…but terminator vision. It’s only like a decade away.

  7. Dear Bill, thanks for clarification. I’m not familiar with patents and patent applications… πŸ˜‰

  8. ExbibilioÒ€ℒs technology definitely looks as if it has a lot to offer. If Google did acquire the company they are really ahead of the game with this one.

    I believe Exbiblio is going to become very popular once more people become aware of it’s features and capabilities. Thanks for sharing Bill.

  9. Exbiblio sounds like a very interesting prospect. Making easier and easier ways to search for and buy things is at the top of everyone’s list. Watching the video makes it look very enticing and exciting. So will Google be heading up getting this technology going and out to the public?

  10. This is an incredible leap in technology. It seems like it’s a little ahead of its time but so far they seem to have a good handle on it. I just hope they start on their spam detection now versus playing catch up like they do with seo.

  11. Wow! That is pretty crazy! Good thing that Google acquired them. They seem to have a great piece of technology on their hands.

  12. Hi Kyle,

    That kind of technology seems to be more of a possibility every day. Some recent posts that I’ve published describe some more of the potential for seeing something offline, and having almost immediate access to information and transactional capabilities online:

    How Google Might Offer Face Search by Using Pictures from Social Networks
    The Future of Google’s Visual Phone Search?
    How Google Might Let you Shop by Camera Phone

    As for terminator vision, check out the Goggles shown from my writeup of this Yahoo Patent:

    Yahoo Exploring Virtual Reality?

  13. Hi Pete,

    That assignment database is something that I think most people aren’t really aware of. I’m hoping that someday the USPTO gets the funding to revamp their website and make it easier to find things with, and to use.

  14. Hi John,

    I’ve been surprised that Exbibilio hasn’t been as popular as they could be. The technology that they’ve been developing is pretty interesting and useful.

    Not sure if Google acquired the company or just the rights to use the patented technology, but either way, it gives Google access to some pretty interesting technology.

  15. Hi Sarah,

    It’s hard to gauge how Google might integrate any technology into the things that they offer. The Exbiblio stuff seems like it would be a good match for many of the things that Google is trying to do with Google Goggles, and we might see it integrated there at some point in the future.

  16. Hi Ryan,

    In this particular instance, with the very smart and larger than life CEO of Exbiblio, Martin King, passing away last September, I’m wondering if Exbiblio would go on to bring this technology to the public on their own. Google’s acquisition of the technology might be the best hope that it does.

  17. That’s awesome technology. This is why it’s important for marketers to always keep up with new trends. I’m sure this technology will have a huge impact on the advertising and promotion world.

  18. The corporate website of exbiblio is now offline. This is another indication for an acquisition. I think that Google acquired the company.

  19. I just downloaded the Google Goggles app on my droid and it’s pretty darn cool. The one feature that they haven’t quite completed yet, but I’m definitely excited about is the ability to take a picture of some text in a foreign language and have it translated. Perhaps even done with text to speech. You’re probably going to see a lot of tourists in foreign countrties taking out their smartphones quite a bit in the near future.

  20. Great post. It’s nice to know that Google is doing all means to take care of these things for us.

  21. Hi Nick,

    There’s some pretty neat things going on with the Exbiblio technology. I think it has the potential to lead to some pretty interesting changes as well. Hopefully Google will continue to offer it in some of the ways that were shown in the video.

  22. Hi Pete,

    It’s possible that Google did. I know when I was looking at the Exbiblio site that it wasn’t being maintained well – the videos were no longer available on their own site, and I had to go to their YouTube channel to get to them. I’ve looked for more information about some of their employees, and a number of them are now employed somewhere else. It looks like if Google acquired the technology, they may not have also done some hiring of Exbibilio employees.

  23. Hi Jeff,

    There are some nice features in Google Goggles, and even though it often seems like a work in progress, I think there’s a lot of potential for it.

  24. Hi Andrew,

    Lots of interesting stuff coming out of Google these days. I’m looking forward to seeing how a lot of the different pieces fall together.

  25. Tested Google Goggles for a couple a days ago and was impressed. Really cool tech!

  26. Hi Bill,

    How do you know that the patent has been transferred to another company?


  27. @Manish Bill clearly stated, “Looking through the USPTO assignment database.”

    I’m not that big of fan of goggles.. not yet. It could be really useful if it was very accurate. Say you wanted to identify a plant, bug species, or maybe a car zipping by. Seems like it has trouble with specific image types.

    I was always hoping the Layer-type browsers would take off too.

  28. Hi Brent and Manish,

    One of the pecularities of how the patent office does things is that when you look at a patent in their database, you see the original as it was when it was granted, without any changes or additions to it. So, if it was originally granted while assigned to ExBiblio, and then Google is assigned the patent from ExBiblio, it’s still going to have Exbiblio’s name on it.

    The USTPO’s patent assignment database includes information about new documents sent to the USTPO that indicate some change in ownership of a patent such as an assignment of all of the interests in the patent, or even an assignment of the patent as a security interest which doesn’t necessarily give the person or company being assigned the patent all rights under the patent, possibly in exchange for a loan of some type.

    As for Goggles, Google seems like they are very interested in advancing both mobile and search, and in improving the capabilities of Google Goggles. Being able to search by taking a snapshot of something to search with has tremendous potential, whether that thing you’ve pictured is an actual landscape or landmark or object or barcode or even a form to fill out. I suspect that visual queries are something that Google will continue to make a priority.

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