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Accenture's "Pocket Supercomputer" is in fact a phone behaving like a thin client. It can be used to send images and video of objects in real time to a server where they can be identified and linked to relevant information, which can then be sent back to the user.
The camera on the phone is used to take a video of an object — such as a book. According to the Accenture, the server software is smart enough to recognise the cover of the book — it's not yet able to read text — and can then, for example, return the price and history of the book, and details of where it can be bought.
By offloading the processing from a mobile device onto a server, there are few limits on the size and processing power available to be used for the storage and search of images.
"It started out as a robotics project," said Accenture's Fredrik Linaker who has lead the research on the project. "We added one, then two laptops to the robot. It became too heavy so we ripped the brain out of the body and put it in a different place, with a wireless link to the body."
The next step was accessing the central "brain" using a mobile device.
For the demonstration in Accenture's labs in Nice on Tuesday, Linaker used a laptop running Windows XP.
The video search can be set up to access any type of image that is in the database. For example, the technology can recognise an image of a painting; Linaker demonstrated using an image of Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring. When the camera on the phone took video images of the painting, a search of the database returned results giving information about the painting, and linked the phone to the recent film of the same title.
Foodstuffs can be identified by their packets, even if the name of the foodstuff is written in non-Latin characters, such as the Chinese pack of soup seasoning pictured above.
Businesses can use the application for inventory purposes, or to train staff to recognise different electrical components, says Accenture.
A "three-dimensional" image of an object can also be uploaded onto the phone, to look at the virtual object from different angles. The motion-tracking technology Accenture uses for this is a free library of algorithms called Open Computer Vision originally developed by Intel. This could be used to train employees about certain pieces of stock in a warehouse, for example.