UK start-up challenges Google Photos with A.I. powered private search

In partnership with academics from the University of Oxford, a London start-up has condensed the power of cloud-based visual search technology to the size of a book.

The Pholio device, which can safely store or access your media all in one place, allows an incredible level of search and discovery across your photos and home videos.

Simon Randall, CEO of Pholio, said: "Thanks to smartphones and mobile devices, we are creating more content than ever before. The problem is that for every upload to the cloud or (yet another) sub-folder created on the computer, you could well be adding hundreds of files. The chances are that many of these images and videos will sit for years collecting digital dust. Searching for special memories and discovering those you thought were lost, is now easier than ever before."

The software in Pholio automatically checks all images in your collections against 20,000 in-built search terms, from 'birthday' to 'christmas' and 'house renovation'. By keying a relevant search term into a browser on a connected TV screen, tablet, phone or laptop at home, families can search for all sorts of things in their own photo collections – from day trips to Bangor to bungie jumps in Niagara.

Pholio was trained in the lab by showing it millions of images with a wide range of content. A custom set of deep learning algorithms has learnt how to create a unique summary of the contents of images so Pholio can recognise and classify faces, objects and scenes that it has never seen before. Pholio has been trained to recognise 20,000 search terms which can be used fully offline. If Pholio is connected to the internet, owners can search for anything (Pholio can learn new search terms on the fly based on what users search for).

The technology within the Pholio box will evolve for individuals based on their specific interests and collections - each box will end up understanding different things depending on its owner. It will be a boon for collectors and hobbyists who can train their systems to recognise the things they care about. From stamps to birds, cars, shoes or handbags, the device allows detailed exploration and sorting based on what it learns about the collections.

According to estimates, a staggering 1.2 trillion photographs will be taken this year, double the number taken four years ago. With many photographers owning a myriad of devices, from tablets to phones to digital cameras, Pholio is a perfect way of condensing and exploring important family archives. The basic Pholio device will manage collections of up to 140,000 images, the equivalent of 875 standard photo albums [1].

Simon Randall added: "With the growing volume of data coming from imaging and connected devices in the home there is a critical need for local processing and control. This will save cloud streaming costs, increase response speeds, and provide choices that don't require handing over control of your data. Pholio is step 1 in our drive to bring data control and ownership back into the home through harnessing developments in deep learning technology that everyone can make use of."

A short history of our photography collections

1850s The earliest photo albums created.  Owners often put the albums on display and they featured ornate illustrations surrounding the images.
1920s 35mm film invented
1948 First Polaroid camera launched
1997 Philippe Kahn instantly shared the first pictures from the maternity ward where his daughter Sophie was born. He wirelessly transmitted his cell phone pictures to more than 2,000 family, friends and associates around the world. Kahn's wireless sharing software and camera integrated into his cell phone signalled the birth of instant visual communications. Kahn's cell phone transmission is the first known publicly shared picture via a mobile phone.
2000 The first dedicated camera phone sold in Japan
2004 Launch of Flickr
2005 Dixons ends 35mm film camera sales
2010 Launch of Instagram
2017 An estimated 1.2 trillion digital images taken, scattering our collections worldwide
2017 Pholio launches, bringing the photo album home

[1] Pholio: 500GB Storage-140k photos | PholioPro: 2TB Storage –560k photos
Estimate assumes Pholio is setup to store optimised photo thumbnails only and is based on physical photo albums which hold 160 photos

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