By now, many people have heard of Google Goggles, but not many people are aware of what you can do with it.

For the unaware, Google Goggles is a mobile application developed by Google (obviously) that acts as a catch-all tool for information searching. This is vague, I know. There’s no easy way to describe what it can do.

The basic idea behind the app, currently only available for Android (though coming to iPhone “soon”), is you use your camera to take pictures of <things> and get <various info>. Some easy examples are landmarks and products. Take a picture of the statue of liberty, get Google search results (and information) about the statue. Take a picture of a Playstation 3, get some information about the PS3. Very cool way of truly visually searching, no typing involved.

It doesn’t end at search. Here are some ways you can use Google Goggles that most people aren’t aware of.

1. Translate Text

Take a picture of some text, and it will automatically “read” that text and use it as a search string.

Take a picture of some foreign text, and get the ability to translate it into another language.

Simple functionality, but effective. You can also take a picture of a bunch of text, and then crop the image to only search a portion of the text. Like a snipping tool, but for, well, real life.

2. Map an Address

Snap a pic of an address (written down, or a text address, though if you’re trying to scan writing it better be nice handwriting) and get the option to automatically map a route to that location.

Some basic tests I ran showed this to be mostly effective – it reads text really well if it’s typed but I had a much lower success rate with handwriting. Still, useful for finding your way when you just managed to scribble down an address on your way out the door.

3. Scan (and Save) a Business Card

Business users take note: you can use Google Goggles to automatically create contacts and save them to whichever contact system you’re using (Exchange, Google, etc).

Just use the camera to snap a pic (noticing a trend here?) of a business card, and watch it magically read in all the contact details like title, phone number, etc.

When trying this myself, I had some minor success. Certain fancy cards won’t get recognized and instead will perform text searches for that contact. I managed to get one contact read in from a clean looking business card, although not all of the fields were recognized. The card I scanned labeled things oddly, with just a single letter instead of a full name (example: B for Business Phone Number) so it’s possible the system was confused.

Save some time and trees and scan people’s cards instead of letting your wallet pile up with unwanted or forgotten business cards.

4. Augmented Reality

If you turn on GPS inside of Google Goggles, you get a full featured Augmented Reality app. Augmented Reality uses the compass/GPS to force an overlay on top of the camera view, so you can look around and see additional info about things. Example: you can look around downtown and view businesses nearby.

Goggles has it’s own AR app builtin, so just switch to camera mode and start looking around. Clicking on the icons will show additional information about the business or place, as well as quick links to call or read reviews.

Hopefully, the future will see Goggles expanding and getting a cleaner look. With the recent news of the iPhone port, it’s only a matter of time before the userbase explodes. What other uses could Goggles add?

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