PhotoTime, recently called the “best application for letting everyday consumers benefit from deep learning techniques”, automatically tags and sorts the photos on your phone, social media, and cloud accounts – so you can search by typing, rather than endless scrolling.
It’s the first app of its kind, and we want to introduce you to its founders: Meng Wang and Tianqiang Liu.
PhotoTime was born in a dumpster at Boston University, where Tianqiang and Meng were enrolled as PhD students.
“When I worked at Google, I observed that most of the uploaded videos and images had no attached metadata to describe the content,” Meng explained. “In other words, Google is blind.”
So when he and Tianqiang entered a BU hackathon, the team decided to leverage their backgrounds in computer vision to mine information about images – on a system that did the heavy lifting on the server side.
“Think of it like a remote control car – the controller does the thinking and the car obeys,” Meng elaborated.
Impressively, this “server” consisted of five broken machines they found in the trash. But together, they assembled these five weak machines to act as one powerful one. It could stream images from iPhones and generate tags, such as who was in the photo and whether they were indoors or outdoors – a huge feat for a weekend project.
But they wanted to take the idea further. The team entered entrepreneurship competitions and began pitching the project to top incubators. Eventually, they accepted an offer from TechStars, and Orbeus was born.
Orbeus has come a long way since that first hackathon. Here is their current deep learning system, which lives in this homemade, liquid-cooled GPU.
Orbeus launched several products before PhotoTime, including The Hottie Finder and Magic Mirror, which provide attractiveness ratings, as well as video indexing and image-to-text services. Each probably deserves its own article. But as a psychologist, I couldn’t help but wonder how the co-founders became interested in computer vision and AI in the first place.
“I like drawing,” Tianqiang told me. “As a little boy, I always had a pen in my hand. While the other kids were studying, I was drawing portraits of my teachers.” And, he boldly proclaimed, “improving the illustrations in my textbooks.”
Tianqiang soon learned to draw comics, and loved thinking about what makes images beautiful. This evolved into an interest in PhotoShop – which he began skipping classes to learn. When it came time for his senior project, he joined a computer vision research lab. whois discovery . “It was interesting,” he said, “because computer vision knows what’s in photos.”
Orbeus’ founders: Tianqiang Liu and Meng Wang
Meanwhile, Meng had a childhood interest in robots. “I thought of them as intelligent and human-like – like they could interact with the world and see what we do! But all the robots around me were disappointing. They were stupid.”
This sparked an interest in “making things modern,” starting with a motorized toy car his mother gave him when he was 12. It could move forward, but it couldn’t turn – so he rewired the remote control to increase its capabilities. domain technical info . It was the first, but far from the last time, he made a machine smarter.
Their paths were very different – but somehow, both led from China to Boston, where Tianquiang and Meng began working on projects together. It was a match made in heaven.
Meng continues to work on the R&D side – he is as passionate as ever about intelligence and consciousness. But PhotoTime has taught him that making the technology perfect is not enough – he also researches what PhotoTime users care about. He’s loved learning how his audience likes to engage – and their feedback has helped him improve the backend performance.
Tianquiang, though, has fallen in love with infrastructure. “When PhotoTime was featured by Apple, we had lots of user growth and traffic. It was challenging, but very interesting.”
But one thing they both agreed on: PhotoTime isn’t just a company. It’s also a lifestyle. Since so many of the team members live far from home, they use PhotoTime to share their lives with their loved back home. “It helps us minimize the time and location gap between family and friends. It’s very convenient – I can just type my name (or whatever I want to show them), click share, and they see it.” Tianqiang added.
They also use PhotoTime for business – you can just snap a photo of notes on a whiteboard, receipts or business cards, and then search “whiteboard” or “business card” when you need to see it again. The team loves that they use their own technology every day.
“It’s exciting!” gushed Meng. “But not as exciting as the new feature we’re launching in March!”
Intrigued, I asked him to elaborate. But I was unable to convince him to say more – except, “You’ll be the first to know if you follow us on Facebook or Twitter.”
Artificial intelligence is certainly a hot topic in both academia and the media right now – but most of the public doesn’t get to use it. PhotoTime has created an app that introduces this technology to the public in a fun (and useful) way. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
We’ve all done it –
“Did you know I have a chinchilla now? His name is Bob! Here, let me show you his photo –“
SCROLL SCROLL SCROLL SCROLL
“ – Hold on, I know he’s in here somewhere…”
SCROLL SCROLL SCROLL
“Hmm, maybe it’s not in my Camera Roll. Let me check Facebook –“
But on Meng’s IPhone, I typed “Chinchilla, Bob” in PhotoTime and this picture showed up in a second:
Bob is the most recent addition to Meng’s menagerie, which also includes two hamsters (all of whom I saw on Meng’s phone when he typed “animal” into PhotoTime). “We were very satisfied with our hamsters, but I wanted a bigger one,” he told me.