Translate the real world with Google Goggles

Traveling to another country can be an amazing experience. The opportunity to immerse yourself in a different culture can give you a new perspective. However, it can be hard to fully enjoy the experience if you do not understand the local language. For example, ordering food from a menu you can not read can be an adventure. Today we are introducing a new feature of Google Goggles that will prove useful to travelers and monoglots everywhere: Goggles translation.

Here’s how it works:
  • Point your phone at a word or phrase. Use the region of interest button to draw a box around specific words
  • Press the shutter button
  • If Goggles recognizes the text, it will give you the option to translate
  • Press the translate button to select the source and destination languages.

The first Goggles translation prototype was unveiled earlier this year at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and could only recognize German text. Today Goggles can read English, French, Italian, German and Spanish and can translate to many more languages. We are hard at work extending our recognition capabilities to other Latin-based languages. Our goal is to eventually read non-Latin languages (such as Chinese, Hindi and Arabic) as well.
Every new release of Google Goggles contains at least one new feature and a large number of improvements to our existing functionality. In addition to translation, Goggles v1.1 features improved barcode recognition, a larger corpus of artwork, recognition of many more products and logos, an improved user interface, and the ability to initiate visual searches using images in your phone’s photo gallery.
Computer vision is a hard problem. While we are excited about Goggles v1.1, we know that there are many images that we cannot yet recognize. The Google Goggles team is working on solving the technical challenges required to make computers see. We hope you are as excited as we are about the possibilities of visual search.
Google Goggles v1.1 is available on devices running Android 1.6 and higher. To download, please scan the QR code below or go to the Android Market app on your phone and search for “Google Goggles”. See our help center for more information.

iPhone OS 4.0 beta 3 brings new media controls, file sharing, more

iPhone OS 4.0 beta 3 is out, and there are some reasonably juicy additions that Steve Jobs failed to mention when he took to the stage last month.  BGR has been digging around the new release and has turned up not only an updated multitasking system – tweaked for quicker use – but media playback controls, file sharing with iTunes and an orientation lock.

The media playback controls appear in the new multitasking UI, and can be accessed with a left swipe gesture.  As well as track-skip and play/pause there’s also a shortcut directly into the iPod app, together with the new screen rotation lock button.  The latter, like the physical lock switch on the iPad, stops the iPhone’s screen flipping with the accelerometer.

As for file sharing, that’s a new pane in iTunes that allows you to copy over documents to your iPhone when it’s plugged in, or alternatively transfer them from the phone to the computer.  Right now it’s apparently locked-down, but it does at least suggest that Apple are wising up to the fact that users want more flexibility with their mobile content.

Location, Location, Location: Google Latitude Has 3 Million Active Users

Location is the hottest craze in social networking right now, as developers and social media sites have realized the huge potential of the smartphone as a way to track the places people are visiting and keep them connected with their friends and followers. Everyone wants in on the location game, but one service that has been chugging along in the background with little mention is Google Latitude. Most people took Google’s location-based service as a bust, but Steve Lee is here to say, “Latitude is not dead.”

In fact, Lee points out this is far from fact, with Latitude now hosting 3 million active users. For reference, FourSquare just recently broke the 1 million mark. The user-base picks up a big boost thanks to Google’s smartphone platform, with over 10 percent of all Android users using the service.

The apparent low market penetration has a lot to do with iPhone users being less keyed-in to the service thanks to Steve Jobs and his anti-Google agenda. OK, so it might have less to do with that and more to do with Latitude operating as a background task, something that up until OS 4 the iPhone was incapable of. Lee also went on to suggest that Latitude may eventually gain explicit location abilities in combination with the already present implicit tracking (meaning FourSquare-like check ins).

Any Latitude users out there? Lee notes that 25 percent of those signed up to the service currently have zero friends, so maybe the real key in getting Latitude noticed is upping the social value of tracking your location. For now I will stick with FourSquare and continue on my quest to best all my friends in the weekly leader boards.


Software-Based Harmony With Competing Operating Systems

Now this is just plain cool. His name is Steffest, and he coded a music app on three different operating systems – Android (Java), iPhone (Objective-C), and Windows Mobile (C#) – and made perhaps the coolest guitar I’ve ever seen (at least for a phone geek’s standards).

While it isn’t pretty on the hardware side, he strapped together 5 different devices (a couple of which seems to be Android-based) onto a piece of wood and routed the audio from each device to a battery-powered speaker. He added that sound latency issues was the reason he couldn’t code one app and deploy it to all 3 operating systems.

The end result is a very smooth-sounding “hack” of sorts. He gives us a demo of the song Cracklin Rosie and – for the type of setup he’s put together – it doesn’t sound half bad at all. He’ll be presenting the device that he calls “The Phone Guitar” at MobileCampBrussels, a conference about mobile cross-platform development.

For more details, take a gander at his blog.

Now you can get Android on your iPhone 3G!

Remember last month when someone got Android running on an old 2G iPhone? Well, the same crowd who were responsible for that have come back with the OS now running on an iPhone 3G. Next stop, 3GS…

The developers over at LinuxoniPhone say they’ve got multitouch and WiFi running for Android on iPhone. But when this was released for 2G iPhones, the modders warned that it would be pretty simple to port it forward to the 3G – whereas the 3GS is going to take a lot more work. So don’t hold your breath.

What we think?

I noticed something interesting in the comments section for this announcement – more than one person is interested in seeing a similar kind of mod being arranged for the iPad. But we’re not necessarily talking about putting Android on the iPad here. It seems quite a few people would be happy just seeing OS X Snow Leopard on the tablet.


Google patents, AdMob and geo-targeted mobile advertising

Damned interesting press release came in from AdMob today. Probably the biggest mobile advertising network in the world, AdMob is the king of display and banner ads when it comes to mobile devices. And today it has announced a test run of geo-targeted advertising with a location-aware dating site in the UK called – and I’m sure I’m not the only person that this immediately reminded of Google’s recently awarded patent for the use of location in mobile advertising.

What’s this now?

At the start of March, there was something of a surprise when it was revealed that Google had successfully nabbed a patent for the use of location information in mobile advertising. The patent covers a broad range of location uses in mobile, including: using location as a factor in targeting; using location to track the performance of an ad; using location to determine content (like custom landing pages, etc.); letting advertisers enter their own location data for better ad targetting.

There’s a lot of ground covered in the Google patent. If any part of the reason an advertiser serves an ad to a consumer is because of that consumers location, then technically the advertiser has just infringed on Google’s patent. At the time that this news came out, I suspected this might simply be a passive patent – a way for Google to hold onto something that Apple might find valuable, as a defensive measure.

But now we see the announcement from AdMob.

What’s the news?

For all of the following, it’s important to bear in mind that Google is currently attempting to buy AdMob lock, stock and barrel, and make it a wholly-owned subsidiary. There are a variety of powerful opponents to this merger – including the Federal Trade Commission, which is at this moment attempting to block the acquisition from going ahead. You can read more details on this emerging conflict in our reports, but what it boils down to is this: the FTC feels that combining the massively powerful Google AdWords service with the sheer scale of AdMob would create a mobile advertising force so large it would damage competitiveness.

So today AdMob has announced that it will be running a trial, testing its geo-targeted ad serving technology. The test is with a location-aware mobile dating application from a UK dating site called This trial will cover basically every part of the Google patent. It will use the real-time location of the mobile owner to allow to target its ads at users based on where they are. The trial won’t be running across the entire AdMob network, only on iPhone and iPod Touch handsets in London. Mobile browsers and applications that host advertisements from AdMob in London will display banner ads that direct people towards

What we think?

First things first, I’m damn interested to see the results of this test. What wants here, specifically, is to boost its London audience. It’ll be good to see how well AdMob is able to facilitate that, seeing as it has an almost ubiquitous presence on smartphones and advanced feature phones.

Second is the Google aspect. There was an interesting comment from the mobile advertising agency that works with, Fetch Media. It predicts that this “pioneering” technology from AdMob will see rapid adoption. The MD at Fetch, James Connelly, says that “the best-performing ads are obviously the most relevant ones. Geo-targeted real-time ads are a big step towards total relevancy, and we are proud to have worked with AdMob to bring it to the UK marketplace.” It really shines a new light on the Google patent. AdMob is obviously moving as fast as it can to corner location-based advertising in the UK. As far as I know, the Google patent only covers the United States – so rather than being a defense against Apple, it now seems more likely that the patent is a holding tactic. A way for Google to hold mobile location-based advertising back in the US until it is ready to unleash AdMob in the States.