Yahoo Acquires Image-Recognition Startup IQ Engines To Improve Flickr Photo Organization & Search

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Oh, so you thought Yahoo’s acquisition spree was over? Not even close. A Yahoo spokesperson has confirmed that the revitalized web giant has snapped up yet another company — this time it’s an image-recognition startup called IQ Engines.

Yahoo has declined to disclose the terms of the deal, but the IQ Engines team confirmed in a statement on its website that they have been tapped to join the Flickr team where they will work on “improving photo organization and search for the community.”

IQ Engines first made a splash back in 2010 when it snapped up $1 million in funding for crafting an API that would allow its customers (think online retailers and app developers) to provide a visual search engine of sorts that could automatically categorize images on the fly. It later appeared at that year’s DEMO Conference, where our own Alexia Tsotsis picked it as one of the show’s most impressive startups.

Eventually, the startup would come to maintain two APIs. The first was called SmartCamera, and it was geared mostly toward retailers who wanted users to interact with products and brand logos by scanning them with their smartphone cameras. The other API, SmartAlbum, allows for photo analysis and facial recognition for online photo albums and mobile apps — if I were a betting man, I’d wager this is the bit Yahoo is really after.

Those APIs were adopted by a host of high-profile customers including retailers Best Buy, Old Navy, and Tesco, though the APIs they had access to will be shut down in 30 days. More recently, though, IQ Engines locked up a $3.8 million Series B from Third Point Ventures and Motorola Solutions’ venture arm (not to be confused with the totally separate mobile division that Google now owns).

So what’s the IQ Engines team going to do now? While IQ Engines’ main bread and butter was offering image-recognition APIs, it was also working on a mobile photo album application called Glow that organizes the images on your smartphone into categories based on automatically generated tags. As seen in a demo video (below) released back in July, the app is not only smart enough to tag photos based on location, but also their contents. A quick bit of tapping meant users would be able to view all their sunset photos, or all the photos that prominently feature faces in them. Given the team’s statement, it wouldn’t be a shock to see them try to bring some of this contextual intelligence to Flickr as a whole, though the Flickr mobile app seems like a more logical starting point.