11:04 AM

11.08.06: Riya launches Like.com image search

On a day when the political sands have so fundamentally shifted after a blowout night for Democrats and Donald Rumsfeld has resigned, is it a little out of whack to focus on the technology breakthrough that allows people to better find watches similar to ones that adorn Paris Hilton's fetching wrist? Yes, but you know where to turn for political news so ....

Riya has launched Like.com, an image search engine that does mathematical analysis of images to find similar images. This, Michael Arrington notes is a breakthrough because it's not based on crappy metadata:

The Like.com engine takes both text and images as queries, something no one else does. To return results based on an image query, Like.com compares a “visual signature” for the query image to possible results. The visual signature is simply a mathematical representatioin of the image using 10,000 variables. If enough variables are identical, Like.com decides the images are similar.

If you enter a text query, like “brown boots pointed toe,” Like.com will convert that query into variables in the visual signature and look for related image results.

Matt Marshall says he finds the service, which only works on watches, shoes, handbags, etc, "compelling."

Like is a classic Silicon Valley play, heavy on engineers, and stoked with about $19 million in venture capital from Bay Partners, Leapfrog and Bluerun. We’re still waiting for Google to release its competing visual search, which some say is better.

Which raises the key point: Google can only do so many things, but search is at the heart of everything they do. If image search is important, Google will put resources into it. If they can't do what Riya can do, they'll buy them. Clearly, venture capitalists are investing in startups with winning proprietary software not for the IPO payday but for that conference call with Larry, Sergey and Eric.