Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Google Goggles and the Wonders of Modern Technology

Sorry about yesterday, folks. The library was kind of in the middle of a blizzard, and campus shut down. Not like much is on at the library these days. Winter break is nice and drowsy, when it comes to students and other people using the library, so we usually use it to get lots of odds and ends done. In any case, there's certainly time for blogging. :-)

Today's technology post stems from an article I read over the break that focused on Google Goggles. Believe it or not, but Google's got this cool new ability to run internet searches based on pictures. You take a picture with your smart phone, and Google figures out what it's a picture of, then lets you find information about it. Case in point: you're in Prague and you see this cool building, but you don't know what it is. Normally, you'd have to find your guidebook and thumb through it for a while. With Google Goggles, you snap a picture and in moments you have the Wikipedia entry, the place's home page, user reviews about it--the whole internet full of information on it, right there with you. Who needs a guidebook?

Or say you're in Bratislava and want to go to a restaurant, but the place you pick only has Slovak menus, and no one there speaks English. With Goggles, you can take a picture of the menu, and Google will translate it for you. Yes, it's just as accurate as Google Translate, but that's improving all the time, and in any case, it should be enough to give you an idea what you're ordering, allowing you to avoid the pickled eel noses.

Goggles also works with books, artwork and logos right now. They're working on getting it to the point that it can recognize plants and more. Think of it. We're not too far from being to the point where you can be stranded lost in the forest, but you don't have to starve, because you can Google what sort of plants are around you and find out which are edible. Then you Google how to start a fire, how to make a primitive pot, and look up some good soup recipes using the ingredients you've scrounged together.

Assuming you have phone internet coverage in the forest, that is. :-)

In any case, these "wow" moments seem to be coming more and more frequently for me. What they won't think of next. When I think that when I was a kid, my entertainment choices were limited to what happened to be on one of the 5 channels we got at home--or listen to a record or the radio--and I compare it to what my son has available (YouTube, the internet, video games in various flavors, DVDs, Netflix--the list goes on and one) . . .  That's in 25 years of change. What will the next 25 years bring?

We live in exciting times, my friends. Exciting times.

That said, this post got deleted on me after I'd written the whole thing, all due to a Firefox crash. Kind of ironic, in a marveling-at-technology-but-still-frustrated-by-it-at-times sort of a way. Happy Tuesday, everybody!