Seeing through Google Goggles

In December 2oo9 Google announced Google Goggles, an Android app that allowed visual search from a smartphone. In essence this tied together geo-location and ‘light’ image recognition to identify landmarks (for example) or alternatively read a barcode. As Google usually does, Google Goggles was marked as a ‘Labs’ product meaning work in progress. Here’s a video explaining this launch relating to the app expansion over to the iPhone.

…And people got very excited, primarily due to the reference to this app being Google’s first foray into Augmented Reality. Putting two and two together, analysts and commentators were keen to point that that this was a natural move for Google because this type of app or device would allow the layering of local, geo-fed data into a real-time view.

More recently (last week in fact) Google ramped up the Goggle PR machine. CEO Larry Page wore the next evolution of the smartphone app, namely a pair of glasses during his speech at the annual Google Zeitgeist event in London. This new wearable version of Goggle is code-named Project Glasses and comes with GPS and a camera. And here’s a video of that.

And then Google went a step further and pushed out a video of Project Glasses recording video.  Which of course is making people slightly more excited.


This post isn’t an exploration of the application of AR. Instead, it’s an exploration into what Google could actually be planning longer term with a Google Goggles type application. And rest assured it’s not about delivering contextual advertising. It’s about Life-Logging.

Let’s start by taking a look at the Metaverse Roadmap to see how Life-Logging (and AR) fit into the ‘bigger picture’. Here at KZero towers you know we’re all about virtual worlds but we’re also all about how virtual worlds fit into a longer term and wider architecture. The Metaverse Roadmap framework does a brilliant job at presenting this picture.

Virtual worlds, as shown in the diagram are ‘Intimate Simulations’, meaning you experience a virtual world usually on your own in a private setting (i.e. via a lap/desk top) and what you experience is a Simulated (i.e. created) environment. And hey, 1.7bn cumulative registered accounts ain’t bad so clearly people love spending time in virtual worlds.

Mirror worlds are the sisters to virtual worlds and whilst still being Simulations, they are External as opposed to Intimate, meaning they reflect (or mirror) the real-world – they’re based on real-world places. Tourism and time-travel are two interesting uses for mirror worlds.

Let’s get more to the point.

Augmented Reality fits into the Metaverse Roadmap as being the polar opposite to virtual worlds. The experience is External as opposed to Intimate. Meaning you use AR away from the ‘desktop’ and on the streets, so to speak. And rather than being a simulated environment, the experience is one of Augmentation, i.e. data (information) is added to (augmented) into your field of view. Pretty cool and of course set to be a multi-billion Dollar industry pretty soon.

And leaves us with Lifelogging. This is the sector that to date has garnered virtually zero coverage. This is the segment which I believe is THE long term play for Google, with Google Goggles, or Project Glasses, or whatever you want to call it, being front and centre of the strategy.

Lifelogging in simple terms is the capturing (via camera) of what is observed by the person wearing the device. In a way, interesting this action is a natural evolution from major trends we’ve seen on the Internet in the context of blogging (anyone being able to write about anything and publish it to anyone else) and then micro-blogging (a la Twitter and Facebook). The diagram below shows this evolution and this post goes into greater detail.

Comparatively, blogging is hard because it takes time to sit down and write an article or post. Micro-blogging is easier because shorter ‘bursts’ of comments are the norm. But with Lifelogging, all the hard-work is done for you. Capturing video happens on the fly and publishing what you’re seeing is just an automated process.

So a primary use of Lifelogging is the on-going recording of what you see (and by default where you are because GPS will be a built-in feature). It’s also the on-going recording of what you hear and what you say because of course there’s going to be microphones built-in.

In summary, Lifelogging provides the ability to record what you see, say, hear and do. This, my friends, is personal data, and arguably the most personal, intimate and valuable personal data we have.

As a side note, some of you will already be thinking of the data protection implications of the above. More about this in a future post.

Getting back to where Google fits in…..

No-one can doubt that Google has done a pretty good job at managing the worlds ‘information at large’. Or in Google corporate speak: ‘Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful‘.

But there’s only so many books that can be searchable, news stories referenced or information-based websites that can be indexed. And this is totally different ‘information’ than compared to truly personal and individual data.

What are the potential applications for Lifelogging?

Here’s a simple one.

You’ve lost your car keys. Rather than ransacking your house searching through the weird and wonderful places you might have left them, instead you just ask your Goggles, ‘Siri-style’, without wishing to mix the metaphors too much (Apple is another obvious contender for the Lifelogging market and that’s another post). So, you ask your Goggles and here’s where the magic happens. Built-in image recognition (or visual training) would have remembered where you last put your keys, or would have tagged them the last time the Goggles saw them. Then simply, the device indexes the keys and either tells you or shows you (AR sat-nav style) where they are. Problem solved, sweating reduced, fewer swear words used and a tidier house.

And when you start to think about, there is an endless number of applications for Lifelogging, which we’ll lay-out over a number of posts in the near future.

Fundamentally, Lifelogging means you’re storing your life experiences and then indexing them for future reference. Imagine being able to query your life through a search engine…

  • Show me where I was this time last year
  • What was the last thing my boss said to me?
  • What did my brothers last girlfriend look like?
  • How long was the queue the last time I went through Heathrow?

Someone has to be able to store, index and present this information. And it’s valuable. So it’s monetisable.

Lifelogging could be the market Google is polishing the Google Goggles for.

The next two article will delve into the sharing of experiences via Google Goggles and the far-reaching commercial applications. You won’t believe your eyes.

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