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Google Goggles What This Means For Augmented Reality

Submitted by on Wednesday, 9 December 20096 Comments

Now the dust and the wow factor has settle from the Google Goggles announcement a few days back I thought it would be interesting to take a more in-depth look at what this means to the augmented reality industry.

Multi Search Topics

Multi Search Topics

There are demos a plenty of taking photos of book covers to retrieve reviews and online prices. If you are new to augmented reality then it’s actually not that new. SnapTell have both an iPhone and Android application that provides this functionality. Just take a picture of the cover of a DVD, CD, Book, or Video Game and the software uploads the image to the SnapTell server and runs image recognition to compare the picture against likely matches. Once a match is found you get the usual mix of online reviews and cheaper prices.

Recognising a barcode image I would assume is a lot less complex than recognising a book cover since there are less colours and shapes to contend with. Barcode shopping is another feature of Google Goggles and again there are various products available that provide the same functionality, ShopSavvy on the Android or RedLaser on the iPhone are just a few examples. I use RedLaser from time to time to see just how obscure the product range is. GoCat Tuna and Herring cat crunchies is the most obscure product I have managed to have recognised so far. To compete with Goggle’s logo recognition there’s GetFugu for the Android, iPhone and the Blackberry so again nothing new there. Goggles will search on wine bottle logos which as far I as know is unique as I don’t know any other application that does that today, but I’m sure it’s only a small leap from recognising a book cover to recognising a wine label.

google goggles books

You might think that I’m having a dig at Google but far from it, just becuase they are not first does not make the application any less cool. There are some really fantastic features in Google Goggles that make me drool. I’m no art buff but Goggles will enable me to become an art critic and give me relevant information about major pieces of art, all I need to do is sneak a crafty picture when the security guard isn’t looking and Goggles will tell me the name of the picture and the artist. Fantastic if you are walking around a museum but again it’s probably not a huge step in recognising the Mona Lisa or a paperback copy of C++ for dummies, ultimately it’s a blob of shapes and colours that are compared. Nether the less it is a fantastic use of image recognition.

My personal favourite and the piece de resistance of Google Goggles is a feature that must have the CEOs of the various augmented reality browser companies laying awake at night as Google are about to change the way location aware augmented reality browsers work.

The way augmented reality browsers work today is they use LBS to figure out your current location and the compass to see which way you are facing. With that information they can determine what points of interest you might be facing. Most of the time it works pretty well but I’m sure you know that GPS is not accurate, sometimes my tests have been accurate to 30 meters and sometimes it strays to up to a mile. If you are facing a landmark the visual indicator provided by the augmented reality browser may or may not be shown near by the object you are looking to locate. The second problem is there could be a building between you and the point of interest; the application has no way of actually knowing what is in front of you and what you are really looking at.

Google Goggles however uses image recognition on the landmark. If you are standing at Big Ben in London it sends a copy of the image to the database, performs an image match and then tells you precisely what you are looking at, not what might be around you and in that general direction. The accuracy is so good you can sit at home in California and look at your holiday snaps of Big Ben and it will still recognise the landmark. Fantastic when you get back from a trip and wonder just what all those photo’s are actually of.

Google’s strength is obviously search and the vast array of seemingly endless images that have that their disposal. Properly indexed there would seem to be no limit to what can recognise, particularly if they open up the API for developers to produce our own plug-ins. What breed of cat is that? Cat recognition plug-in tells me is a British Short hair and it’s favourite food is fish. That’s a nice car what is it? Car recognition plug-in tells me it’s an Aston Martin DB7, insurance group is a 31 and it has a top speed of 186mph, but I can’t afford it because my bank plug-in is warning me based on my current salary I would have to save for 30 years.

You can’t help think that terminator vision has just got a step closer. Some six or seven months ago we got our first augmented reality browser, now at the end of the year it seems like we are about to take a huge step forward in augmented reality with Google’s arrival. It will be interesting to see how the current crop of augmented reality browser providers respond to the Google play and what is up their sleeve for the future..

The video walk-through below well worth a look at some of the features of Google Goggles.

Excellent overview of Google Goggles.

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  • rouli said:

    Good video find, and impressive technology!

    The common thing between pictures in a gallery, books and landmarks, is that they are relatively 2d. You mostly see and take pictures of landmarks from relatively far away, where their 3d structure is relatively lost.
    Cars in the street, on the other hand, are a whole different story. I wonder how good it is in recognizing famous (non land-markian) sculptures, for example Venus de Milo.

  • lester (author) said:

    Indeed. I think real object recognition will be the next frontier

    I don’t have an Android so I can only speculate, but it appears the augmented browsing is not real-time. So unlike Layar/Wikitude when you move your device around the various points of interest are plotted in the camera view, Goggles requires you to take a picture, the 2D image is then send to the server to be recognised so it gets around the problem of having to deal with complex 3D shapes, distance etc

  • rouli said:

    Actually, in the animated video they claim to have a browser like mode where you do not need to take any picture

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