Google Jan. 10 upgraded its Google Goggles mobile application with speedier barcode scanning and the ability to recognize print ads and solve Sudoku puzzles.
Android smartphone and iPhone users can take pictures of locations, art, products, barcodes and other products with their phone's camera. Goggles will scan the image and conduct a search on Google.com for information about the image subject.
Google later added text translation capabilities to Goggles, allowing travelers to take pictures of street signs, restaurant menus and other text in other countries and read them in their native language.
The refreshed Google Goggles can scan and search print advertisements, such as movie posters and magazine ads for cars and other products consumers might happen upon.
Users can snap a picture of the ad and Goggles will recognize the print ad and return Web search results about the product or brand.
This feature is different than the marketing experiment the company revealed in November, according to Google software engineers Leon Palm and Jiayong Zhang, who explained:
"We're now recognizing a much broader range of ads than we initially included in our marketing experiment. And when we recognize a print ad, we return Web search results. While in the experiment, we return a specific link to an external Website."
Keeping right along with the shopping theme, Google Goggles 1.3 for Android (not the iPhone component of the Google mobile app) can scan barcodes almost instantly.
Users will open the Goggles app from their smartphone, hover over a QR code or barcode and receive results of the subject in a few seconds, all without pressing a button.
Users may then tap on a result to read product reviews and compare prices. This is particularly useful for shoppers on-the-go who want to access information about a product found in a store.
What Google has signaled with its Goggles enhancements is that it intends the software to be an important mobile commerce aid to help traveling shoppers find the right info about products and services fast.
Finally, for fun, Goggles on Android and iPhone now let users cheat on Sudoku puzzles. Users can take a picture of an entire puzzle and Goggles will return the solution to the puzzle. See how it works in this video.
The Goggles upgrades come on the heels of Google's October launch of its official Google Goggles app for the iPhone, which should give the app more exposure, at least until Apple releases its own visual search application.