Meet Google Goggles, Augmented Reality Vector

Google Goggles would provide a perfect window for augmented reality, but the search engine wants to build out its computer vision search database and 3D object coverage first.

It's early days for computer vision software such a Google Goggles, which some analysts and even Google itself feel hasn't tapped its true potential.

One such role for Goggles could be as a vector for AR (augmented reality), which comprises the overlay of information on real-world views seen through a mobile phone's camera viewfinder.

Goggles is a visual search application that uses smartphone cameras to send image information to Google's computing clouds, then back to the users' phones to complete an action.

Users of Android and Apple iPhone smartphones can use the app to snap pictures of landmarks, books, CDs, wine bottles, art. Google has taught the app to recognize print ads, QR codes and barcodes, solve Sudoku puzzles and translate menus from one language to another.

But what if Google tweaked Goggles in such a way as to retrieve not just historic info from its search engine, but to overlay real-time information about things or even places when a user points the camera at an object?

Google Goggles Product Manager Shailesh Nalawadi said Google is considering different applications for AR.

"When you do it well in current paradigm, it feels more real-time," Nalawadi told eWEEK. "AR is a user interface, user experience innovation. It's something we are looking to do as well, but at the right time."

It's one thing to whip up another newfangled piece of software, and quite another to find a practical use for it.

Nalawadi provided a hypothetical scenario where Google might use AR. For example, a mobile phone user could point his Android phone at a restaurant or bar across the street to learn menu, hours of operation, ratings, deals and other info.

Some AR browser makers, such as Wikitude and Layar, operate in this fashion. Google's core goal is rooted in search, so Nalawadi said Goggles needs to answer another question: what is the specific piece of information a user is looking for when they search with their mobile phone?