Mobli launches visual search engine

Eye In

The visual search engine will find videos from real-time events from Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Mobli itself.

Imagine that you could be everywhere at the same time, and see through other people's eyes what a performance by One Republic in Yankee Stadium looked like, and how the Israel national soccer team's most recent loss to Bosnia looked like. That is the idea behind EyeIn, the new venture launched yesterday by Mobli Media, founded by CEO, entrepreneur, and investor Moshe Hogeg.

Although the idea is being launched only today, Hogeg was already thinking about it in 2009. In almost every interview with Hogeg to date, he has said that the idea to found Mobli started at a performance by Aviv Gefen. Standing behind, he saw dozens of hand-held cellphones filming the performance, and thought that it could be interesting to see the performance through the eyes of others.

"When we began working, we discovered that there is no information in the pictures taken linked to the place," Hogeg explains. "So we decided to develop Mobli as a photo app and social network, and create from it a database of pictures that could be used for searches."

Over the four years since it was founded in 2011, Mobli has hit the headlines and raised money - $86 million from Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, Kazakh tycoon Kenges Rakishev, and a list of Hollywood celebrities and athletes, such as Leonardo Di Caprio and Serena Williams, but could not manage to compete with Instagram.

The competing US app hit the market three months before Mobli, and took the big prize. All Mobli could do was follow in its footsteps, until Instagram was acquired by Facebook for $1 billion. This deal, which trumped Mobli's cards, Hogeg says, actually did his company a favor; Mobli currently has 23 million registered users, compared with 300 million users for Instagram.

"We were in the dumps," he reminisces, "but then we remembered that this was not our goal at the beginning. The idea wasn't to create a social network; it was to create a visual search engine, so we changed our focus back. We left a small team of less than 10 employees to continue developing and maintaining Mobli, and everyone else focused on developing the search engine."

The idea behind EyeIn is exactly like that Aviv Gefen performance. Even if Hogeg stayed in back and couldn’t see the stage, or got stuck at home and never arrived at the performance, he will be able to type in the location of the performance on the EyeIn website (or on the app to be launched shortly), and see in real time how the performance looks to users of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Mobli itself.

The system developed by Mobli is able to retrieve pictures from websites according to location, date, and context. "This is a real task. Information collection is no trivial matter," Hogeg exclaims.

A visual search engine reminds the average user of Google, and that is no coincidence. A Google Images search will give the user pictures from various events, but not in real time, and not from the social networks.

How can Mobli use information from Instagram, which is considered its competitor in one way or another? Hogeg says that all the pictures publicly shared on an app are open to use through API (an interface that makes it possible to include them on the EyeIn website), and the same is true for Facebook.

"Globes": What will happen if Facebook decides to block your access?

Hogeg: "Facebook might block our access, although we give them credit, show their logo or that of Instagram, and provide a link to their website. If they nevertheless do this to us, they can't discriminate against us. They have to do it to others, too. I see no reason for them to do it, because we're directing traffic to them."

To understand the connection

EyeIn is able to not only retrieve pictures from the social networks, but also to understand their context, whether it is the content or the date and time. Former Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. computer vision department head Efrat Rotem was recruited for the task, together with a series of 8200 Unit (IDF elite intelligence) alumni. For two years, they worked on EyeIn in order to try to understand the relevance aspect of pictures -where and when the picture was generated. For example, the algorithm knows when selfies are relevant (in clubs, for example, in contrast to football games, where the field is what is interesting, not the audience).

The EyeIn website is open to all users, who can search for events and places around the world, and watch events through pictures and video clips in real time, or according to a specific date. The business model at the moment, however, comes from content websites, which can integrate content filmed in real time.

Mobli has developed an add-on that can be integrated in stories on content websites, and which displays pictures related to a given event posted in real time by social networks surfers.

Under the title "EyeIn for Publishers," Mobli has links to six leading content websites, headed by "Huffington Post."

"The product is able to analyze the story and generate an album of pictures and clips," explains Mobli COO Ido Sadeh. "This enables website editors to bring in pictures from the field without being there, such as in earthquakes. The One website, with which we did a pilot, displayed surfers' pictures in real time while generating a report about a game before the game itself began."

According to Sadeh, the business model will be based on content and context-based advertising offered in one of the pictures, similar to the model currently used by Outbrain and Taboola. Sadeh added that the pilot run by websites in recent weeks shows that the pictures and clips updated in real time increase the time spent by surfers on the websites.

Despite the advantage that the content sites can obtain with real time pictures, Sadeh and Hogeg say that a check by them revealed that only 30% of the items on an average website were usable for EyeIn. It is therefore likely that the technology will not be used for personal interviews and items not based on live events.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on June 16, 2015

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2015

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