App Watch: Searching Without Words

At some point, scientists think, you’ll be able to point a lens at almost any object and get information about what you’re seeing. Imagine seeing a shirt you like and learning quickly who makes it, where it’s sold and how much it costs. Or seeing a building and learning its history and whether you can rent space in it.

Google (GOOG) is among the companies working on this technology–known as augmented reality–and its Google Goggles application for Android phones provides a very early look at some of the possibilities. The app, which is free, allows users to take pictures of things like paintings and landmarks and automatically conduct a search based on the image.

In a test, the app was able to identify brands, two-dimensional artwork and things like buildings from Google Street View. Google Goggles has a big “wow” factor, but it’s still a long way from a sci-fi style world with data at your fingertips.

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