LensVector, a Silicon Valley startup working on novel lens technology, has received its latest round of funding from In-Q-Tel, a not-for-profit venture firm that invests for the sole purpose of boosting US intelligence capability by providing the CIA with state-of-the-art information technology.
So what’s LensVector developing that CIA would want? Lenses that focus electronically with no moving parts.
Here’s a diagram by LensVector showing how their tiny autofocus lenses work compared to traditional technology:
Rather than using mechanical parts to focus a lens, LensVector uses electricity to align liquid crystals to a desired shape, which focuses light to a particular point.
Given the CIA’s interest in this technology, it must be working pretty well. Hopefully we’ll see this introduced to consumer cameras that need it (i.e. cell phones) soon.
A fun fact: another startup that received In-Q-Tel funding was Keyhole, Inc., the geospatial data visualization company that was acquired by Google in 2004. Their flagship product, Earth Viewer, was turned into Google Earth.
NachoFoto is a new image search engine that attempts to deliver relevant results for a specific kind of query traditional search engines haven’t focused on: dynamic keywords.
These are keywords for which the resulting photographs should change over time.
For example, if someone searched for “tiger woods” this past week, they were likely looking for photographs of him at the Masters. However, traditional search engines such as Google returned exactly the same images as they did the week before. A quick Google search for “Tiger Woods” shows many images of him, but nothing specifically from this week. A NachoFoto search of the same term returns photographs ordered by freshness.
Another example would be the searches for “earthquake”. Those who search for the term “earthquake” prior to a major disaster would have greatly different expectations than those who searched for the term immediately after. As of now, Google does not offer any way to sort or filter by time in their image search.
Traditional services like Google built their reputation upon relevancy, but newer services such as Twitter have demonstrated that the ability to surface “trending” topics is important to users as well.
This new service is an interesting look at a feature image search engines should have, but unless someone acquires NachoFoto, it probably won’t stand a chance if the feature is added to existing search engines.