Google announced Google Googles yesterday, an application that uses the camera in your Android-powered phone to take a picture, conduct a visual search, then return results. Google admits that it's very early, but this is extremely intriguing technology and it has the potential to take visual search to a whole new level by combining it with virtual reality to give you results when you have no information whatsoever.
Multimedia Search is A Different Animal
Multimedia search has always presented a unique challenge to search engines. It's one thing to locate text because the text itself is always going to provide a reasonable context to find the item you are looking for, but pictures, video and sound tracks generally lack textual clues beyond metadata such as a title, date, equipment used and so forth. While this is helpful it doesn't let you start with an item you know nothing about and get you to an accurate search result. That's where Google Goggles is so different.
In this example, the Google representative points his camera at a Japanese landmark he presumably would know nothing about. It's entirely possible when traveling in foreign countries (or even somewhere in the US), that you happen upon a landmark you know nothing about. You could go flipping madly through the guide book, but without a name or some context, even if you have your smart phone with you, it's going to be tough to enter enough information to return anything close to a meaningful result.
Snap a Picture
But this technology lets you simply take a picture. Google analyzes it and returns the name of landmark. I'm guessing since this went into the lab yesterday, there is going to be a lot of frustration for early users as the tool fails to return the correct result or any meaningful results, but I'm also betting when it works as advertised it's going to a beautiful thing. You can use this tool to identify paintings, get information on books and of course land marks, but my favorite use case so far is the business card scanner.
You can take a picture of a business card. The application essentially scans it with your camera and identifies the different fields and gives you the option of adding it directly to your address book with the click of a button. Very efficient use of the technology.
A Little VR Anyone
Finally, the application can (according to developers anyway) identify local businesses. As you pan along a street using the phone's camera, the name of the business appears in the view finder. You simply tap the name and you get search results about it. I could see them teaming up with a service like Yelp to give you meaningful reviews about a business, but for now it's just simply search results about the business you selected.
I'm guessing that somewhere down the road, Google will make this application available for the iPhone too because they are not usually about confining their tools to a single platform. For now though, Android phone users already flush from the release of the Motorola Droid can show this application to their obnoxious Apple-owning friends and have one up for them for a while. More importantly though, it's interesting technology and it has a lot of potential to help advance multimedia search moving forward.