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Picture Perfect? Cortica Tackles Photo Recognition

The startup Cortica is tackling the world of digital photography with technology that it said will give computers the ability to see and understand what is captured in the images.

"Every day, there are billions of photos and videos uploaded to the Internet from YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, but until now, no computer has been able to fully understand what these images represent, without relying on human intervention," said Ynon Kreiz, Cortica's chairman.


Cortica's platform creates intelligent computers that can scan through mountains of images online, Kreiz said, looking for and interpreting the visual data they contain to accurately identify what's in the photo. The technology recognizes objects, places, faces, logos, brands, events, products, and concepts.

Kreiz, who is also the chairman of Maker Studios and was the former chairman of the TV production company Endemol for three years, said the technology will revolutionize search. Currently, a Google image search is as accurate as the tags associated with the image, he said. With Cortica, Kreiz envisions a more relevant search that relies on the technology that can look into a photo or video and identify the images contained in it.


Hill Street Studios | Agency Collection | Getty Images

Kreiz also believes the technology will empower companies to better understand a person's web surfing based on accurate information about the images you view, upload and interact with. He thinks the technology will ultimately help advertisers target online ads to videos and photos with relevant content.

"With so many images, videos, photos that are being uploaded and viewed everyday on the Internet, there's an immense opportunity. And today, no one has been able to fully grasp and convert this entire inventory to commercial real estate. And this is what Cortica can do," Kreiz said.

However, Cortica faces some challenges in terms of possible copyright infringements. Cortica said it can control what it shares with clients by using brand safety and censorship. However, the company has still not figured out all the specifics on privacy issues that may come up.

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Read more: Q&A with Cortica Chairman Ynon Kreiz

It also faces stiff competition down the road—heavyweights Google and Stanford University are currently developing image recognition technologies.

Right now, Cortica is in the process of piloting its product with advertising companies and other clients to increase revenue. It would not disclose any specific partnerships with brands.

The company, currently based in Israel, has already raised $7 million in a second round of funding. The investment was led by Horizons Ventures, owned by Hong Kong billionaire, Li Ka-Shing. Kreiz also participated in the second round investment. Cortica's headquarters will be relocated to New York this fall, since its target market is the U.S.

By CNBC's Erin Barry and Joanna Weinstein

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