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Google buys Plink, its first UK acquisition

Google has acquired a visual search firm set-up by a pair of Oxford graduates.

PlinkArt

Google has bought its first UK firm in the form of visual search engine Plink.

PlinkArt is an app for devices running Google's Android operating system - it's not available on the iPhone - that lets users run a visual search to find out more about a piece of art.

Users simply take a photo of a painting, and after Plink identifies it from its database of "tens of thousands" of items, they're sent information about it.

The four-month-old firm was founded Oxford graduates, Mark Cummins and James Philbin, who are also Plink's only employees. They picked up a top prize in Google's Android Developer Challenge last year, winning $100,000 and have won 50,000 users in the past four weeks.

The pair will now focus on improving their new employer's own visual search tool, called Google Goggles.

"Google has already shown that it's serious about investing in this space with Google Goggles, and for the Plink team the opportunity to take our algorithms to Google-scale was just too exciting to pass up," the founders wrote in a blog post.

The Plink site will still keep working, but there will be no more updates as the founders instead focus on adding features to Google Goggles.

"We're looking forward to helping the Goggles team build a visual search engine that works not just for paintings or book covers, but for everything you see around you," the pair added.

Anil Hansjee, Google's head of corporate development for Europe, said there was a lot of innovation across Europe's tech world, with good support from industry, academia and the government.

"It's time to be much more optimistic about the European tech start-up scene," Hansjee said.

The terms of the deal weren't released.

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