This is something I’ve been waiting for a long time; the introduction of MMS search or “mobile visual search” via network carriers here in the US. Finally, the user doesn’t have to do anything special to take advantage of this new mobile search technology. Carriers have begun integrating MMS search into their photo-messaging services, including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint.
23half Inc.’s Thrrum MMS has been aggressively seeking partnerships with carriers, and it’s paid off. So far they’ve secured deals with the top 4 US carriers listed above, and is offering their beta service free-of-charge to participating users on the networks.
Subscribers can try out Thrrum MMS Search by sending an MMS picture message to firstname.lastname@example.org. The service will analyze any picture of a book, a product label or any printed material and return relevant product information to the user.
While this is a good move on behalf of Thrrum, being the first to become integrated into carrier’s network, I still have a few questions. First and foremost, why would carriers choose Thrrum over all the other mobile visual search providers. Thrrum’s service requires the user to use a camera phone that has auto-focus or a macro-mode to successfully analyze an image and/or text. Other services from companies like SnapTell, Kooaba, and others can provide the same functionality, but without the use of focus or macro-mode. An instance where users wouldn’t have to do anything special, or need any special device-functionality is the route carriers should have taken when selecting a provider.
Also, Thrrum’s service is more or less a text-recognition service via mobile devices. It extracts text from images sent to their servers and uses that text to perform a search. It then sends the subsequent search results back to the user via MMS. While this is useful, full-blown image-recognition is the better route to go in, being carriers would then have an opportunity to introduce image-based advertising as well. It should be interesting to see how well received the service is on the networks, and how much consumers get out of it.