At a loss for words? Google offers search by sight

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At a loss for words? Google offers search by sight

Post by Admin on Fri Jan 22, 2010 12:16 pm

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--Google's first
search engine let people search by typing text onto a Web page. Next
came queries spoken over the phone. On Monday, Google announced the
ability to perform an Internet search by submitting a photograph.

The experimental search-by-sight feature, called Google Goggles, has a
database of billions of images that informs its analysis of what's been
uploaded, said Vic Gundotra, Google's vice president of engineering. It
can recognize books, album covers, artwork, landmarks, places, logos,
and more.

"It is our goal to be able to identify any image," he said. "It
represents our earliest efforts in the field of computer vision. You can
take a picture of an item, use that picture of whatever you take as the

However, the feature is still in Google Labs to deal
with the "nascent nature of computer vision" and with the service's
present shortcomings. "Google Goggles works well on certain types of
objects in certain categories," he said.

Google Goggles was one
of the big announcements at an event at the Computer History Museum here
to tout the future of Google search. The company also showed off
real-time search results and translation of a spoken phrase from English
to Spanish using a mobile phone.

"It could be we are really at
the cusp of an entirely new computing era," Gundotra said, with "devices
that can understand our own speech, help us understand others, and
augment our own sight by helping us see further."

Offering one
real-world example of the service in action, Gundotra said that when a
guest came by for dinner, he snapped a photo of a wine bottle she gave
him to assess its merits. The result--"hints of apricot and hibiscus
blossom"--went far beyond his expertise, but that didn't stop him from
sharing the opinion over dinner.

He also demonstrated Google
Goggles to take a photo of the Itsukushima Shrine in Japan, a landmark
tourists may recognize even if they can't read Japanese. The uploaded
photo returned a description of the shrine on his mobile phone.

Vic Gundotra, Google's vice president of
engineering, takes a photo of the Itsukushima Shrine in Japan. The
Google Goggles feature successfully identified it.
(Credit: Stephen

Although the service can recognize faces, since
faces are among the billions of images in the database, it doesn't right
now, Gundotra said.

"For this product, we made the decision not
to do facial recognition," Gundotra said. "We still want to work on the
issues of user opt-in and control. We have the technology to do the
underlying face recognition, but we decided to delay that until
safeguards are in place."


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