I’ve been watching reports about Google’s new Android operating system for mobile phones carefully the last couple of weeks. Developers are reportedly having some bigger problems developing for Android than the iPhone, because of big differences in the mobile phone hardware and settings used to run Android. The iPhone has something like 100,000 apps now available, and I read a prediction yesterday in the New York Times that number may TRIPLE in 2010. With such an astonishing lead in the sheer number of available applications, why would anyone want a phone OTHER than an iPhone today? Is there any way another mobile phone platform can catch up? If any company can pull this off, Google should be able to.

This evening I learned about Google Goggles, and I’m wondering if and how this functionality will come to the iPhone? The service is billed as a way to “Use pictures to search the web.” It sounds like a is available ONLY for Android, not for iPhone. According to Engadget’s article today, Google Goggles is:

…an Android app that takes photos, tries to recognize what in them, and then generates search results about them. Goggles can recognize landmarks, books, contact info, artwork, places, wine, and logos at the moment, and Google says it’s working on adding other types of objects, like plants.

This video gives a 2 minute summary of Google Goggles:

Here’s a somewhat scary and sobering thought: How long until Google Goggles recognizes a human face and generates relevant web results? Ooooo… Not sure we want that technology in our hands. Is it coming? I’m no insider, but I wouldn’t think it would be too much of a stretch to integrate facial recognition technology into the app. Think iPhoto Faces on your mobile phone. Powerful? Yes. Scary? Perhaps. Doable with today’s technologies? Definitely.

I’ve used the iPhone’s Amazon application to snap photos of a book which are matched (through human intervention, I think) with the book on Amazon so I can add it to my wish list or purchase it right away. I’ve also used the EverNote for iPhone application to take photos of business cards and have the website perform an OCR scan of the text. Google Goggles appears to make these processes even faster and more automated. I’m sure there are other iPhone applications which have similar functionality to these. Yappler lists 15 different iPhone apps as of this evening which address OCR in some fashion. Can any of these apps search the web based on a photo, however, like Google Goggles? Not yet.

Think how revolutionary this entire concept is: SEARCHING the global information network with PHOTOS… wow! And my kids are still taking spelling tests in school…..

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  • http://problemfinding.labanca.net Frank LaBanca

    Talk about a visit from Christmas past . . . A few years ago, I worked and mentored a student who was into neural networks. She (a high school junior, at that point) had worked on independent neural network projects for two years. She developed a neural network that was capable of image to language recognition. Her system worked for 5 different languages and quite a number of images. Her application was to click the picture with a cell phone and then the network would recognize what the image was and translate it for you. Very clever and very effective. Her project won first place at the State Connecticut Junior Science and Humanities Symposium and the Science Horizons Science Fair. More importantly, it captured the attention of both students and practicing scientists and engineers. And that, I would boldly say, is where we want our students to be, not only the problem solvers, but the creative problem finders, capable of developing meaningful, authentic topics that are appropriate for study. Now how do we as teachers make it happen effectively?

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