Google Goggles – Merging the Real World and the Virtual World

Early in December 2009 Google announced the launch of their visual search app called Google Goggles [pictured above].  At the time the app was available only on phones using the Android OS, however around October 2010 Google Goggles eventually made its debut on the iPhone.
So why the fuss?
Well let’s have a look at some interesting facts relating to the expedited growth of mobile across the world, gathered from my recent attendance to the ‘Mobile Media Mindblast’ conference held at ‘The Bay Hotel’ in Cape Town:

– “In 2000, 1 out of 10 people in the world owned a cell phone by 2010 76% of the population owned a cellphone”

– “By 2012 there will be more mobile internet users than desktop users, globally”

– “In SA: 93% mobile penetration in comparison to 6% PC penetration”

– “16% of 42 million mobile users in SA have smartphones i.e. More smartphones than DSTV subscribers”

click here (for a more detailed inforgraphic)
Essentially the mobile phone is fast becoming the primary screen in a consumers everyday life, even more so in emerging markets, and the one device that enables that consumer to access information that is user specific to make better informed decisions. Understanding the potential impact that this may have on consumer buying behaviour and on historical consumer media consumption rituals, marketers globally are voraciously trying to gain competitive advantage within this space … enter the Google Goggles opportunity…
Although Goggle Goggles is still in its infancy and would need to reach critical mass to be of meaningful value, the natural assumption to made is that the app would be seen by the consumer as ‘trustworthy’ and ‘familiar’ because of the equity behind the ‘Google’ brand. When one looks at the how the development of the app has progressed, the app demonstrates tangible effect on consumer media consumption rituals and by default consumer engagement with brands e.g. The app allows for barcode scanning or QR code  scanning, implying that a consumer may pick up a product – scan the barcode and within seconds have all the product info available to them; including consumer reviews (which these days consumers seem to trust more than the advertisments).  Implication – No more having to ask the busy (or misinformed) shop assistant for assistance!!!!
In a marketing experiment Google partnered with 5 “pioneering” brands to put the app to the test:

In watching this video I am reminded of a Ted Talks video that was released in Feb of 2009 titled “Sixth Sense.”  The talk presented technology as the ‘sixth sense’ that facilitates access to ‘meta’ information available in the virtual world, overlaying this meta information in real time in the real world via projection technology.  Although Google Goggles is not quiet there yet, is it plausible to think that just maybe this could be a reality in the not so distant future, brought to you by Google?  Take a look see…

Additional features include:

Business card reader: which moves beyond simply recognising the content as text, Goggles recognises the information as a contact and presenting the opportunity for you to add to your phone’s contact list.

Print publication ad recognition: (The recognition of print ads that return web search results about the product or brand) … I tried this with a Col Cacchio’s pizza box and it worked wonderfully, giving me the web page for Col Cacchios’, location of the stores via google maps and contact details.

Customised search history:  Allows the a consumer to search their Goggles results, append personal notes on specific results and share these results with friends. After adding a personal note to a Goggles result, the note will appear in your search history

– My personal favourite is the Sudoku puzzle solution generator: Can’t solve a problem, just take a shot of the puzzle and Goggles will tell you the solution….pretty nifty!!!!


All in all an app that has enormous potential and one that is seemingly a hybrid of apps (a multi functional app) that represents a threat to independent single function apps. Given the increasing rate of smartphone penetration globally we may just see this app around for a while, perhaps with an Augmented Reality overlay?
We shall keep a keen eye out.
Authored by: Altesh Baijoo,  a guy within a passion for tech and business (follow me on twitter @alteshb)
If you want to download Google Goggles, you can find the download details here. It is currently bundled into the Google App on iPhone.