News: Facebook Acquires Visual Search Startup GrokStyle

Facebook Acquires Visual Search Startup GrokStyle

The recent pitfalls and media fallout hitting Facebook hasn't stopped the social media giant from looking to the future.

On Friday, the company revealed the acquisition of visual search startup GrokStyle, whose tool allows users to point their smartphone camera at objects like furniture, recognize that product, and then shop for it online.

"We built state-of-the-art AI and visual search technology to help consumers readily find, explore, and decide on purchases. We partnered with major retailers, demonstrated revenue lift with our technology, and improved the lives of consumers across the globe," the company states on its website, describing the purpose of its product.

Image by GrokStyle/YouTube

"We are excited to share that we are moving on as a team. Our team and technology will live on, and we will continue using our AI to build great visual search experiences for retail."

Kavita Bala (an MIT alum and chair of the computer science department at Cornell University) and Sean Bell (a Cornell alum and former Microsoft intern) founded GrokStyle out of a paper presented at 2015's SIGGRAPH conference. The San Francisco-based company's product would seem to be an obvious killer app for augmented reality — whether the execution is through a smartphone or via AR smartglasses (something Facebook has revealed it's working on).

"We are excited to welcome GrokStyle to Facebook," Vanessa Chan, a Facebook spokeswoman, told Bloomberg in a statement. "Their team and technology will contribute to our AI capabilities."

The company did not disclose how much it paid for the company, but considering the massive power AI-driven visual search in retail could represent, the startup probably didn't come cheap.

Now all Facebook has to do is work on its battered image and maybe a future in which we trust the company to control the lenses to our reality, as well as to our retail experiences, won't seem as dark as Keiichi Matsuda's vision of future AR.

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Cover image via GrokStyle/YouTube

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