Google is working on Google Visual Search, a mobile application that lets users take a picture of a location from their Android-powered smartphone and trigger a Google search that pulls up information associated with the image. The search engine revealed its plans on CNBC's "Inside the Mind of Google," segment Dec. 3. Pairing digital ads, possibly from Google's AdMob acquisition, is a natural way to make money from visual mobile searches. Many people take pictures from their increasingly improving smartphone cameras daily, but imagine if those users could leverage the images as search tools instead of simply fun pictures to look at.
Google is working on a mobile application that lets users
take a picture of a location from their Android-powered smartphone and trigger
a Google search that pulls up information associated with the image.
Google, which revealed its plans on CNBC's "Inside the Mind of Google
Dec. 3, calls the application Google Visual Search.
In a demonstration for CNBC interviewer Maria Bartiromo, Google
Product Manager Hartmut Neven took a picture of Santa Monica pier and Google's positively
identified it in search results.
"Imagine you're a tourist and you arrive at this
place and you would like to know more about it, all you will have to do is take
a shot of the [Santa Monica pier] sign and you see we recognized this as the
Santa Monica pier," Neven said.
However, the technology, known internally as Google Goggles, didn't pass muster when Google tested it with a focus group in
August. The company's engineers are working out the bugs and building out the
immense database required to propel the technology.
If Neven's name sounds familiar for those who follow
Google, that's because Google acquired
his startup Neven Vision, which made facial and image recognition
biometric software, in 2006.
While the technology was initially used to provide image
recognition for Google's Picasa photo-sharing application, sleuthing
journalists dug up patents
filed by Neven that point to
the broader implications of the technology. Specifically, there is one for
image-based contextual advertisement method and branded barcodes
The technology allows users to take an image from a
camera phone and uses visual recognition engines to recognize objects shown in
the image, and return search results based upon that recognition. This is the Visual
Mobile Search (VMS) service, and Neven provides more anecdotes of its potential
in the patent application:
"Imagine you are on travel in Paris and you visit a
museum. If a picture catches your attention you can simply take a photo and
send it to the VMS service. Within seconds you will receive an audio-visual
narrative explaining the image to you. If you happen to be connected to a 3G
network the response time would be below a second. After the museum visit you
might step outside and see a coffeehouse."