Google has indexed and cataloged 76,000 images of the Metropolitan Musuem of Art's art collection for its Goggles visual search application.
What's especially cool about this is that the Met let Google index thousands of photos or works it doesn't even currently feature on display.
What this means is that when you visit the museum and want to learn more about a work of art than what's on its placard, just snap a photo and watch as Goggles scans its way to bring you more information.
But you don't have to even be in the museum to learn more about a Met work. If you spy a Met-curated painting in a book, magazine or billboard, just snap a picture of it with your phone and you'll be on your way to Knowledge St. in seconds.
""We want art patrons to be able to bridge the physical art world with the online world in new, easy-to-use ways. So now no matter where you spot an image of art from the Met's collection, you can simply snap a picture of it with Goggles and get detailed information about its history, the bibliography of its creator, or even the story of the collection -- including info from the recently launched mobile-optimized version of the Met's website.""
Goggles, which was just upgraded with a continuous scanning mode, of course lets users share their find with a friend.
Moreover, the Goggles search history feature will help users store images to look up at a later date -- a virtual art collection.
First, a minor point: Google is crazy about art. This is the same company that earlier this year took its Street View technology into major art museums worldwide to map out the world's great art works.
More importantly, when I think about Google's work with the Met I can't help but think of "The Shallows," Nicholas Carr's most recent book on how the Internet is changing our brains.
Carr is mostly talking about how the information glut on the Web, and all of the snackable content layering it, is molding our behavior, causing us to read fewer books, or even simply fewer longer works. Our concentration is eroding, bit by bit.
Part of the reason for this is that the availability of so much information so fast, thanks to Google and other Internet companies doing their part to organize the world's information online, is allowing us to fall into shortcut habits, which in turn affects the plasticity quotient of our minds.
It all gets very hairy and technical when you start talking about affecting synapses, but my point is that Goggles provides another example for Carr's point.
In the past, if we saw an art work at the Met, we might ask the museum docent for more information or visit the local library and find art books that refer to it.
In other words, it would take some time and legwork. Now all it takes is a typed phrase and an Enter button in Google.
I'm sure a lot of people who love art and are techie enough to use Goggles on Android smartphones or the iPhone will appreciate this feature.
Yet it's also another example of the shortcuts Carr fears are tweaking our brains, leading us gradually down the slippery slope of lost concentration and recall.