Google launches Goggles

December 8, 2009 | 10:05

Tags: #android #augmented-reality #google-android #iphone

Companies: #google

Google is looking to integrate search more tightly with the real world with the launch of a couple of services for use with your mobile 'phone.

First up is Google Goggles, an app which has already hit the Android platform - and is possibly due on the iPhone pretty soon. Reported by TechCrunch from a press event held by Google, it's a radical departure from the norm which promises to make searching for information while out and about significantly easier.

Rather than relying on a typed search term - or even voice recognition, which has been a staple of Google's US search offerings for quite some time - Google Googles allows you to simply snap a picture of an item, which is then uploaded to Google and analysed: the service looks for cover images, recognisable text, barcodes, anything it can use to figure out exactly what you've snapped - and then searches for it.

The example captured on video by TechCrunch's Jason Kincaid was searching for information on a book casually strewn on a table - which worked pretty impressively, pulling up reviews and product links from simply the front cover image.

The book was, conveniently, placed in the perfect position for such tricks, of course: on a plain, white, well-lit surface. How well the technology will fair in the real world - where movie posters are unevenly lit, and books are held in your hand against an out-of-focus patterned carpet - is a test which will have to await the launch of the app.

The technology isn't just about objects, either: in a non-live demonstration, Google showed that simply by taking a picture of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge in Swan Fransisco more information could be found.

The second technology designed to further insinuate the advertising giant into our lives is rather more mundane by comparison: 2D QRcoding. MaximumPC has reported on Google's plan to distribute over 100,000 2D 'barcode' stickers - based on the QRCode system - to the top local businesses in the US by search ranking. These stickers can be placed in a window and snapped by anyone with a QR-capable smartphone - including Android, Symbian, and the iPhone - to bring up a Google Place Page which contains reviews, contact details, and the ability to add the business to a list of favourites.

Neither of these ideas are new: connecting single-dimension barcodes to interactive content formed the basis of the long-departed and much derided CueCat service, and QRCodes are always threatening to be the next big thing. Even the image-based searching isn't completely new, with prior attempts at the technology from multiple companies - including mobile 'phone giant Nokia's Point and Find - singularly failing to set the world afire. That said, this has something the others didn't: Google's search expertise, massive directory, and the power of possibly the biggest brand in the world.

Does the idea of Google Goggles fill you with excitement, or does the tacit admission that now Google can start analysing your habits from photographs fill you with dread? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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