Snowflake Sunglasses?

 Snap and Search (No Words Needed)

By MIGUEL HELFT   New York Times, Published: Dec. 19, 2009

A phone using the Google Goggles application snaps a picture of the London Eye, left, and gets results at right.

Andrew Winning/Reuters

THE world, like the World Wide Web before it, is about to be hyperlinked. Soon, you may be able to find information about almost any physical object with the click of a smartphone.  Vic Gundotra, a Google vice president, says the goal is “to recognize every image.”

This vision, once the stuff of science fiction, took a significant step forward this month when Google unveiled a smartphone application called Goggles. It allows users to search the Web, not by typing or by speaking keywords, but by snapping an image with a cellphone and feeding it into Google’s search engine.

How tall is that mountain on the horizon? Snap and get the answer. Who is the artist behind this painting? Snap and find out. What about that stadium in front of you? Snap and see a schedule of future games there.

Goggles, in essence, offers the promise to bridge the gap between the physical world and the Web.

Yet another good example for the "What If the Impossible Isn’t" list.  This new tool from Google called "Goggles" (say that 5 times quickly!) let’s you find information about anything you can see by simply pointing your camera (phone) at it.  The name Goggles seems very appropriate to me as this literally provides a new lens through which we can see and learn so much more about the "real" or physical world of bits around us. 

Fast forward a few more months/years and I can see (sorry couldn’t help it) us having this capability embedded into our "regular" eye glasses and then perhaps as a set of contact lenses or embedded lenses in our eyes such that we would be able to see any and all relevant information layered on top of anything (or anyone) we are looking at.

In the future, instead of wearing sunglasses to protect us from the glare of the sun, we’ll all be wearing a pair of "information glasses" to protect us from the overwhelming glare of information and filter in just what is relevant for us?  The perfect pair of "just right" Snowflake sunglasses that give us just the right information at just the right time, in just the right place, and so on.

In essence Goggles is also yet another form of  Augmented Reality or AR where additional information is layered on top of the real reality, hence augmented reality.  Though it has been envisioned and worked on for decades, AR is seeing a tremendous increase in attention and hype this past year, but also some very real here and now applications.  Watch for another post soon on more of these examples of Augmented Reality.

In addition to the fact that this is yet another example for my theme of "What if the Impossible Isn’t?" and the premature arrival of the future because it is already available NOW, the most exciting thing for me about these recent AR advancements is the degree to which they help me satisfy some of my infinite curiosity of the world around me.  I wander and wonder a lot, so now as I look at something and wonder “What is that called?” or “When/where was that made?” or “How tall is that?”, I can see some of the factual answers to such questions my just looking at them through these AR lenses.  I don’t have a good head for remembering facts and figures and most other details to say nothing of the great amount of things I see which are completely new to me and I know nothing about.  So having ready and immediate access to this information enables me to put my little brain to work at wondering and pondering some of the other bigger questions.  And of course all of this adds more rocket fuel to propel me faster and further along the exciting exponential path of learning where the more you learn the more questions you have.

I’ve been observing for many years now that we’ve essentially spent the better part of the past millennia working on augmenting our physical capabilities and limitations with the likes of machines and technology, and that we are now beginning what I’m sure will be the next millennia working on augmenting our cognitive capabilities/limitations.  While but a baby step perhaps, the recent increase in AR apps such as Goggles is certainly a way I intend on augmenting my reality and my cognitive capabilities and limitations.

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