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Google Goggles Recognizes Ads, Solves Sudoku

An updated version of Google's image recognition tool is faster and smarter than ever before.

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Continuing its push to develop search technology beyond text input, Google on Monday released a new version of Google Goggles for Android devices and extended the improvements to the Goggles component in the iPhone's Google Mobile App.

Goggles 1.3 for Android is better at scanning barcodes and QR codes, an increasingly popular way to compare prices, than its predecessor. What previously required pressing two buttons -- to access the camera and take a picture -- can now be accomplished by opening the Goggles app and positioning one's mobile device so its camera can see the barcode or QR code.

The latest version of Goggles has also been taught more about how to recognize ads. "The next time you're flipping through the pages of your favorite magazine, try taking a picture of an ad with Goggles," explain Google engineers Leon Palm and Jiayong Zhang in a blog post. "Goggles will recognize the print ad and return Web search results about the product or brand."

Google's education about ads however is limited: It's only likely to recognize print ads that have appeared in U.S. newspapers and magazines since August 2010.

Google Goggles has also learned a trick: Solving sudoku puzzles. As demonstrated in the video below, a Goggles user can point his or her phone at a sudoku puzzle, take a picture and see the missing answers appear in the image.

The introduction of Google Goggles in December, 2009, affirmed Google's interest in new search technology, something already evident at the time from the company's speech recognition efforts. The company's purchase of visual search startup Plink last April can be seen as further evidence that search in the mobile era is likely to involve forms of input other than text entry.

Goggles 1.3 is available from the Android market. The software's print ad recognition and sudoku capabilities are also available in the Goggles component of the Google Mobile App for Apple's iPhone.

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