Google Goggles: Augmented Reality for Mobile Learning


Google just announced its beta launch of “Goggles,”  a service which lets you use your (Google Android-enabled) camera phone as a search engine.   Let’s say you see an object or landmark in front of you, which you’d like to look up online. Instead of searching by typing, you can point your camera phone and take a picture of the object or landmark in question.  Your phone will then send the photo to Google, which will use image recognition technology to tell you what you’re looking at and link you to relevant information, online resources and communities related to the item or  place in question.

Google is starting off with a limited library of image categories they will handle. Interestingly, they seem to be tackling the OCR-business card scanner business, in the process of helping us look up the Golden Gate Bridge and Napa Valley wine labels.  

This is good news for those of us who, since the early 1990’s and those good old days of cyberpunk and Snowcrash, have been patiently waiting for the promises of Augmented Reality and Wearable Computing to come true… come on, we’re well past the Year 2000, and well, it’s about time!  (Yeah, if you’ve lived near the M.I.T. campus in the last 20+ years and have seen any of those wearable computing cyborg cyclists, this is all really old news… but come on, really….)  

This is amazing news for those of us who, since we’ve been able to read, have been frustrated by the fact that we need to know the ACTUAL NAME (and often, correct spelling) of something in order to look it up in a traditional reference book such as a dictionary. Now we’ll be able to look up anything by just looking at it!   

Then again, consider this true story: Years ago, I was walking near a flowering tree on the McGill University campus when a stranger approached me and asked , “Cet arbre, qu’est-ce que c’est?”   I replied, “Je pense que c’est un cerisier, ou peut-être un pommier.”  “Ahhh… merci.”   “Bonjour.”  “Bonjour.”  Such textbook French exchanges of pleasantries won’t be nécessaire, once Google Goggle’s is able to recognize flora and fauna. Is this a good thing?  Peut-être pas.

For those who already enjoy overlaying Wikipedia entries onto their Google Maps  (and even for those who don’t), this technology is going to be HUGE for mobile learning… particularly among the lifelong learner types.   (It’s also going to be awesome for those of us with that another augmented reality hobby: Geocaching)  

Check out this fantastic recent example of mobile learning (and in this case, also social learning):   CSI Twitter: Kids find a mysterious skeleton and learn about forensics, using an iPhone and Twitpic. Forget training kids for standardized multiple-choice tests… if you want your child to succeed in the 21st Century, THAT is the way to give them a top-notch elementary education!

We’re a long way off of having your Google Android Phone identify the skeleton of a mysterious animal, or species of flowering fruit trees, but in the meantime, it’s probably just as well to facilitate more in-the-moment-curiosity-driven, self-directed-but-socially-interactive opportunities for learning.   Google Goggles.  Yes, yes, and YES.

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About danspira

My blog is at: http://danspira.com. My face in real life appears at a higher resolution, although I do feel pixelated sometimes.

Posted on December 9, 2009, in Cool Companies, Learning, photography, Social Media. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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