Google Goggles - Search with your camera, but only on Android (for now)

google goggles logoImage via Wikipedia
Although it's most likely coming soon to the iPhone, Android owners can rejoice for another day that they currently have exclusive use of a very cool app in Google Goggles.  This fun little tool lets you take a picture of text, artwork, landmarks, pretty much anything. The exciting part is when you let the Google search engine try to discover what you're looking at. This week, I had some fun discovering just how cloudy or clear the goggles really were.

My first experience with Goggles was at the Cubs/Cardinals game last Sunday.  I noticed a flag waving in the distance, but didn't recognize the team. I tried to "Goggle" it, but the flag was constantly moving and ended up being too far away. A nice feature of the application is that you can select a specific part of the screen to analyze. Still, I was unable to determine the team (my hunch was Maryland, but the "M" wasn't quite the same.)  I had better luck with the Wrigley Field scoreboard.  Goggles was quick to pull up search results that featured Wrigley Field at the top of the list.

The next day, I tried some different objects.  First, I took a picture of an old brewery poster that I picked up in Belgium years ago.  Sure enough, Goggles identified it (Cantillion Brewery) and the search results were accurate. Next, I tried a book cover (The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons - hilarious so far...), an Altoid bar code, and the ISBN code on my Chemistry textbook. Would you be able to tell a book by its bar code? Well, Google can. Alas, I was taken to the World of Chemistry homepage with a single click.

Even after an impending iPhone release, I'm betting that Goggles will still be a little bit better on the native Google Android OS. In my early usage of the Droid X, my first Android phone, I've been pleasantly surprised at how much smoother, faster, and more featured the Maps and Navigation apps are.  Plus, it's worth noting that Google Nav is still not available on the iPhone.

In the end, does Google Goggles provide an experience that would be worth keeping and more than a simple novelty?  Similar to other Google Labs products, I believe that some use will certainly come out of this tool, whether it's a continued fully supported application or if the image analyzing component of the program makes its way to other apps such as Picasa (search results with uploaded pictures) or Gmail (results with attached images). Either way, it's already proven to be a new and exciting way to search and find.
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