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," segment 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."