Earlier this year, I had a discussion with Shailesh Nalawadi, the Google product manager running Google Goggles, the visual search application that lets Android and iPhone users snap photos of landmarks, paintings, some products and sudoku puzzles.
In a conversation revolving around how Goggles would evolve to work as an augmented reality (AR) app, Nalawadi indicated he and his team were trying to make Goggles smarter.
Not exactly the mind-blowing AR stuff I was looking for, or that Nalawadi alluded to. Goggles 1.6 is more useful, offering a new opt-in feature.
Typically with Goggles, users launch Goggles, then snap a photo of something Goggles should recognize. Goggles parses the wine bottle, puzzle or some other image and returns results after several seconds.
Now, users needn't launch Goggles to enjoy the benefits of the app's visual search.
When users snap a picture with their Android phone, Goggles analyzes the image in the cloud and, if it matches with images in Google's database, Goggles will notify the user, as Google engineer Pavel Vodenski noted:
"Let's say that I'm going on vacation, and I decide to use my Android-powered phone as my primary camera. Goggles would identify landmarks, paintings and other interesting objects in my photos. I can share these facts about my vacation with my friends right from my Goggles search history."
Here's the example Vodenski offered of a picture he took of the Florence Baptistry Doors:
Goggles parsed the image and found a match, alerting the user to the match later, though how much later is unclear.
Users can then tap on the update and tap again to learn more about the image they took.
Piece of cake, right? Sure, but users must first activate the Search from Camera feature from Goggles. Launch the app, tap Menu, then settings, then Search from Camera.
Why is this opt-in when other Goggles features are not? Simple, but important. Opting is Google's way of getting your permission to analyze personal photos you've taken from your Android handset.
All this happens in the cloud. If you're comfortable with this, great. If not, don't turn on the feature.
Meanwhile, expect Goggles to build out its image-recognition capabilities to include more landmarks, products and other well-known and not so well-known objects.