Google is buying Jetpac Inc., an business that makes city guides using publicly available Instragram photos. Using that data, Jetpac determines things like the happiest city.
The amount for which Google is buying the startup is undisclosed and it is likely that Google will use the service to improve search using location information and photo data.
"We look forward to working on exciting projects with our colleagues at Google," announced Jetpac co-founder and chief technology officer Pete Warden via Twitter. "We'll be removing Jetpac's apps from the App Store in the coming days, and ending support for them on 9/15."
Jetpac essentially algorithmically scans users Instagram photos to generate lists like "10 Scenic Hikes," which can be very handy for those travelling in a city they've never been to before. Jetpac has created a total of around 6,000 city guides. Not only that, but the app also puts users' knowledge of cities to the test in a number of quizzes
There are a number of reasons that Google could want Jetpac as part of the Google family. The Jetpac team is very skilled in an area called deep learning, which is something Google has done a lot of work in; the acquisition will give Google some much-needed talent in the field. It will also allow Google to implement some more advanced image-recognition technology. Deep learning, what some call a purer form of artificial intelligence, involves training a neural network to recognize images and then introducing new images and asking it to label them by inference based on what's in its memory bank.
Jetpac also managed to achieve real-time object recognition from video feeds from a smartphones camera. This kind of technology could greatly improve technologies like Google Glass and Google Goggles.
Google seems to be slowly building its reputation as the go-to for travel, after having bought Zagat, which is a restaurant rating guide, and ITA software, which helped Google launch Google Flights. It's highly likely that Jetpac could help Google launch a city guide service of its own. The technology could even find its way into Google+ sometime in the future.
Despite this, it's also possible that Google did not buy Jetpac for the technology itself, but rather the team behind it, a common practice in the Silicon Valley.
Jetpac announced a $2.4 million funding round back in 2012, which gave the company investors including Khosla Ventures and Jerry Yang, among others. Pete Warden himself spent five years as an engineer at Apple before going on to start Jetpac in 2011.
Most recently Jetpac developed a way to determine if a person was smiling in a photo, allowing the app to make guides about how happy people are in different cities.
Jetpac had asked visitors to its site who were interested in having custom object recognition as part of their iOS app to download its DeepBelief SDF framework from Github. It runs on an iPhone 5s, the site said, and was based on Krizhevsky convolutional neural network architecture for object recognition, and available under an open BSD license.
Quitting now while we're ahead, since we're in pretty deep.