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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Xcavator for visual search

Conventional image search has a limitation. It doesn't throw up variations of an image except where its search spiders can `freely' crawl. Images hiding behind paid sites are out of its reach. In that sense, it's more of an online store than a search service provider.
Xcavator, the recently launched visual search engine that lets professional designers and others find images they want and buy, lets you do all that.

Xcavator lets users drill down further into a picture to find similar features on other photos.

Take an example. Let’s say you want an image of an old-fashioned popcorn box. You type in popcorn in the seach bar, and Xcavator provides results. Ok, so there are a couple of popcorn boxes. But, lets say you want to find variations of the red popcorn box on the second row (see below). You drag the red popcorn box image to a place beside the search bar, and Xcavator looks for images just like it. You can then use a hue and a intensity tools (the circle and orb to the left) to find popcorn box images that are say, red, and in a dark background for example.

The company hopes to attract marketers and advertisers, too. It will soon offer video search.

How will it make money? It has 2.1 million images in its database, and gets a small cut for every bought image. Some 300,000 images come from Photovault, which are so-called “rights managed” images — where you have to pay a few hundred dollars for near exclusive rights to use them for a period of time, say a year (you click on the image and Xcavator takes you to a page where you can buy these rights). The other 1.8 million images come from iStockPhoto, which typically cost just a few dollar but you aren’t guaranteed exclusive rights.

This company hasn’t raised any venture money. Many home grown entrepreneurs plodding on without VC funding can take heart. I’ve already alerted my friend Sanjeev Sarma of to the opportunity of providing Indian stock of photos they have.
Good luck, Sanjeev...!

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