Google Goggles: search the world by sight

Google Goggles marks not only a huge leap forward in the field of visual search, but marks a big step for the mobile internet as well.

The application enables mobile phone users to point a camera at something and search for what it is. It is available on phones that are run by Google's mobile operating system Android, which states on its homepage: "No need to type your search any more. Just take a picture."

The visual search is still in testing, but once it is perfected the search engine should be able to recognise the object you have pictured and provide you with relevant search results. In the demonstration at the Computer History Museum in San Jose it was pointed at a bottle of wine to deliver information about the year and the winery.

But as the results are programmed to be relevant, the results will be adjusted to each object: if you point it at an artwork the results are about the artist's biography, while for a landmark it provides you with historical background information, and if you point it at a logo you can learn something about the brand.

The plan is for the technology to work with more than pictures. Using Google Maps when you point your camera should provide you with an augmented reality that will tell you about restaurants and other services nearby.

The program is available as a free download on phones that run Android 1.6 or higher, but it clearly marks a step towards a future in which the world will come with subtitles, wherever you are.

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