Carnegie Mellon University
July 26, 2011

News Brief: CMU Startups @ Google

Executives of Pittsburgh Pattern Recognition (PittPatt), which develops reliable face recognition software for images and video, say the acquisition of their company by Google Inc. is just the next step in a thrilling journey that began with research at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute in the 1990s. It continued when the company was spun off from the university in 2004.

In announcing the purchase, PittPatt officials said, "We've worked hard to advance the research and technology in many important ways and have seen our technology come to life in some very interesting products. At Google, computer vision technology is already at the core of many existing products (such as Image Search, YouTube, Picasa, and Goggles), so it's a natural fit to join Google and bring the benefits of our research and technology to a wider audience.

"We will continue to tap the potential of computer vision in applications that range from simple photo organization to complex video and mobile applications."

Pittsburgh Pattern Recognition (PittPatt, was founded after nearly 10 years of research in object recognition by Henry Schneiderman during his days as a student and faculty member at the Robotics Institute. Joining Schneiderman as co-founders of the company were fellow CMU Ph.D. graduates Michael Nechyba and Michael A. Sipe.

PittPatt is the second CMU spinoff acquired by Google in the last few years. ReCAPTCHA Inc., founded by Computer Science Professor Luis von Ahn, was acquired by Google in 2009. ReCAPTCHA developed online puzzles that serve the dual purpose of protecting websites and digitizing printed text. In 2006, Google licensed the ESP Game, also developed by von Ahn, for use as the Google Image Labeler.

Yet, another CMU-Google connection is Andrew Moore. Moore, director of Google's Pittsburgh office, is a professor in CMU's Robotics Institute. Google Pittsburgh made its headquarters in CMU's Collaborative Innovation Center before moving to Bakery Square.

The acquisition of PittPatt comes two months after CMU launched its Greenlighting Startups Initiative (, aimed at accelerating the university's already impressive record of turning campus innovations into sustainable new businesses.

CMU has created more than 300 companies and 9,000 jobs in the region in the past 15 years, and since 2004, it has doubled the number of start-up companies created by its faculty and students. One of the fastest growing entrepreneurial institutions, CMU ranks first among all U.S. universities without a medical school in the number of startup companies created per research dollar spent since 2007. And its spin-offs represent 34 percent of the total companies created in Pennsylvania based on university technologies in the past five years.