It’s been a very busy week for Rakuten as it seeks to take over the Internet. Earlier today the Tokyo-based online services giant announced the opening of its first R&D center in Europe. Just last week, Rakuten disclosed that it will acquire messaging app Viber for a cool $900 million.
Now ViSenze, a Singapore-based image recognition startup, has announced that it received a $3.5 million Series A led by Rakuten Ventures (the company’s venture capital arm). Investors Walden International and UOB Venture Management also participated.
The investment comes seven months after ViSenze, an spin-off company of the National University of Singapore, first announced that it had started collaborating with Rakuten Taiwan to launch visual fashion search and recognition tools on the e-commerce site.
Rakuten’s involvement with ViSenze is especially interesting because it parallels Amazon’s interest in image recognition tech. The U.S. e-commerce behemoth added a shopping-by-camera functionality to its main iOS app earlier this month that makes it easier for shoppers to compare prices on the site while visiting brick-and-mortar stores.
Amazon had previously released a standalone app called Flow, two years after acquiring visual product search startup SnapTell in 2009.
One of ViSenze’s products, called ViSearch, is a cloud-based visual search tool that could potentially allow Rakuten to add similar image recognition features to its apps and sites. Previous moves by Rakuten to establish itself as a stronger competitor to Amazon and other e-commerce platforms outside of Asia include the acquisition of U.S.-based logistics company Webgistix and its launch of the Kobo e-reader.