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Product Review: Google Goggles

January 10th, 2011 | | Search Behavior, Site Review & Analysis

Google’s products never cease to amaze me, even when they don’t necessarily pass the consumer test of time (Google Wave). One product that I’ve been playing around with lately has just gotten better. Google Goggles is a mobile search engine that utilizes your mobile phone camera to effectively search for, well, anything. Goggles is a downloadable app for Google Android OS (1.6 or greater) or iPhone (iOS 4.0 only) mobiles. I myself have been using it on my iPhone 4 (don’t hold it against me, I love my phone). I was actually introduced to Googles by my best friend Mike, who generally is the one asking for my advice when it comes to techie stuff. I have to admit, this is one suggestion where I’ll give him some credit (You’re welcome Mr. Szymanski).

Regardless of your device, you’ll need to download the Google app. For iPhone, it’s a simple matter of searching Google on the app store and downloading the app. I deleted my app and reinstalled it today and was greeted with an opening tutorial, specific to Goggles. This makes it easy to implement upon first downloading. Unfortunately, I’m not that familiar with the android operating system but I’d imagine it’s a very similar process. You can also have the download link sent to your phone by entering your mobile phone number through the Goggles website on a standard browser. When I first learned about Goggles about a month ago the process of getting it to work on my phone wasn’t exactly clear. The “send Goggles to iPhone” link wasn’t working. Fortunately it is now but this is a process you can avoid by simply downloading the app.

Google Goggles

So getting the app is simple enough and honestly using it is just as easy. The basic premise of the app is that you take pictures with your phone and the images are translated into search results. The app breaks these functions into a few categories that I’ll break down individually:

Text – The text translator can be particularly useful for international travelers. I haven’t found an application for it here in the states but I could see myself pulling it out for a quick translation. You might find yourself in a situation where you need a fast translation and typing a paragraph in a foreign language might not sound like a great idea. Simply open the app and snap a photo and you’ll have a decent translation in a few seconds.

Landmarks – This is another feature I feel is exceptionally useful while traveling. I’m the type of person that actually likes to learn a thing or two about the landmarks I’m visiting while site seeing but I’m not the type to pay for or even wait in line for a guided tour. If you’re out exploring a new city, simply snapping a photo of an unknown landmark can provide you instant and relevant Google results.  Not too shabby of a tool if you ask me.

Books – This can be tremendously useful if you’re an avid reader. I generally get my book recommendations from friends and usually by being a little nosy on their book shelves. In the event you find something you’re interested in, you can simply snap a picture and have all of the information surrounding the book readily available on your phone. In addition to providing author, title, publisher, ISBN number, and publishing date, you’ll also have an image of the book, standard Google results surrounding it, and a direct link to Google shopping results. I liken this feature as the book version of Shazam (the popular app that recognizes songs through a few seconds of audio sampling). I use them both and without them, I’d never remember any of my book recommendations or random songs I hear on the radio.

Contact Info – This again is a tremendously usable feature. The app is able to easily recognize contact information from letterhead or business cards and translate it directly into your phone contacts. This is particularly useful for business contacts. I know I can get a little lazy when entering all the information – things that could be useful like business names or address (which you always tend to need when you aren’t in front of your computer) are automatically generated for you with a simple image capture.

Artwork – This function goes hand-in-hand with the landmarks functionality. If it’s something that is rather well known and has a decent amount of photographed history on the web, you can feel fairly certain that Goggles will recognize the image and deliver search results. I tried this out on a photographic print I have hanging on a wall. While Goggles wasn’t able to tell me the photographer, it did tell me where I purchased this print, which happened to be Ikea. I was more impressed by this then if they had told me the lens and camera body the photo was shot with.

Wine – The wine tool is another one of those simple tools that can be useful in a pinch. Maybe you’re out to dinner and have a great wine pairing you want to remember or at a friends and are drink a sensible glass you want to purchase on your own. A simple snap of the label will give you all the info you need to add that bottle to your cellar. A little known fact about Southern Indiana is that we have a number of fantastic local wineries. These are small obscure bottles and Goggles was able to identify every local bottle we have in our rack. My friend Mike who I mentioned earlier just got back from New York and mentioned he used the app a few times to find someplace local to buy some wine they had with dinner and that it worked like a charm. Bonus feature is that it works for Beer too!

Logos – This is another obvious one but Goggles is pretty capable of picking out brands. If there is a logo you want to commit to memory, Goggles can handle it.

So these are the core functions that Goggles has been advertising from the start. Today they announced some new and added functionality. Some of these added features I’ll admit aren’t the greatest. Barcode reading for example works but isn’t as advanced as some of the dedicated barcode readers. It’ll tell you what the product is and if you can shop for it online, it’ll provide some shopping results but (at least from the codes I scanned) doesn’t provide the in depth cost comparison analysis that I’ve come to expect from the dedicated apps. Google also claims that Goggles is doing a better job at recognizing print ads. I tested this on the Louis Vuitton ad that features Bono and while it did recognize the ad, I wasn’t sure what the point is. I mean, I knew it was Louis Vuitton by the ad, why did I need an app to tell me so?

Finally, the most useless, in my opinion, function. Google Goggles solves soduku puzzles. While I admit it shows the power of the software, I’m not a soduku guy and even if I was isn’t using a robot to solve your puzzle cheating?

I’ve been using this app for about a month now and while I don’t find a use for it on a daily basis, it has come in handy time and time again. It’s good to know that Google is committed to making it better and I think this technology only has room to grow. It’s too bad you have to open an app to actually make use of it. I think it would be even more powerful if it was built into our mobile browsers. Let me know what you think about Goggles. Have you been using it? Do you think it’s here to stay?

Robert is an Account Executive at Hanapin Marketing, a search engine marketing firm focused on generating results through PPC and SEO.

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  • http://stevenahill.com Steve Hill

    Still has a few kinks to work out, but there’s a lot of potential for Goggles. Considering the fact that really nothing like it has ever been developed before, it has a bright future.

  • http://twitter.com/joshaer joshaer

    I have the iphone version and used it to search for an image from a client’s website that I know has been reproduced elsewhere… it didn’t pick it up so still needs to be a bit more sensitive.  To be fair, I was photographing the image on my screen in a light room.

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