SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- With the new version of Google Goggles, consumers barely need to lift a finger to compare prices or get search results based on images their smartphones capture -- no button pressing required.
With a phone hovering over items and images, Goggles 1.3 can now scan barcodes and recognize objects as well as print ads, showing real search results -- not only going to the URL for that item as the previous version released last year did. The app is available for download on the iPhone and Android, with a few extra features favoring Android devices. Life starts to feel like a "Star Trek" episode when a phone can be held up to an image and a "computer" tells you what it is, who made it and where you can buy it.
Google's breakthrough in object recognition combined with its search product can have a huge impact on e-commerce and advertising.
"This is true consumer product discovery on the go," said Matthew Szymczyk, CEO of Zugara, an interactive-marketing agency and studio that produces augmented-reality applications. "By arming consumers with the ability to capture additional information with an image, advertisers can take advantage of real-time pricing, local purchase location and specials with results from print ads. What Shazam did for unknown music search, Google Goggles can now do for any image, product or object."
It will take some getting used to -- consumers have been trained by Google to type into that search bar for many years, so blending their offline and online habits will be a challenge. But big brands are onboard. Back in November, brands including Disney, T-Mobile, Delta Air Lines and Buick participated in a Google "marketing experiment" (Google's words) that used ads maximized for Goggles, leading viewers directly to brand websites. Now that Goggles is a broader offering, encompassing the entire web, brands will need to understand how best to leverage those visual search results.
"What's critical to understand for advertisers is how to maximize print ads so Goggles tags can bring up information created by the brand versus general search results served up by Google," said John C. Havens, emerging-tech guru at Porter Novelli, whose clients include Gillette, Procter & Gamble and Hewlett-Packard. "What we'll be looking to understand is whether these brand-focused Goggle tags are the equivalent of Ad Words where we'll need to allocate SEM spend to feature client content. We'll also need to understand how visual images are 'translated' into keywords or metadata that will affect client's SEO."
But for those not worried about augmented-reality advertising, the new Goggles can also solve your sudoku puzzle.