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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.

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Last Post by farrellj
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I haven't used it; just seen the videos, but it appears to give you a set of results from which to make a choice.

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Google Goggles could be the answer to your quandary, whenever you want to have quick information about the thing that you're viewing. Google Goggles technology uses text recognition, so if you wanted to know whether a payday lender had a good reputation, you could snap a photo of the sign on the building and get information about the company. This could come in handy, as a lot of payday lenders have similar names and it’s easy to get them confused.

Edited by jay 11: removed self-promotional hyperlink

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This is an extremely smart development from the mighty Goog. Not only does it provide a nice feature to help sell Android phones, it gives them first mover advantage in the 'Visual Search' space. This will surely attract early adopters and help expand upon an already loyal following.

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IBM used to have an extension to DB2 called the Ultimedia Extentions which claimed to be able to do object recognition...so you could search a collection of photos for all pictures that had a blue ball in it. Never had a chance to try it, only knew about it since I used a companion product called Ultimedia Builder, a followup to the AudioVisual Connection, a multi-media scripting language designed for use in Kiosks.

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