Who Cares About Camera Phones? Suddenly...Me!

Up until about a week ago, I viewed camera phones as one of the sillier current product trends. After speaking with a few of my colleagues, I'm pretty much convinced that these devices are poised to unleash a wave of incredibly interesting capabilities on the world--if a few key players move to exploit the unique capabilities of the camera phone.

First off, don't think of it as a camera. Think of it as a scanner. Actually, view your camera phone as a vision-enabled, network-connected, mobile input device with modest local storage and processing power. With appropriate infrastructure, it could read bar codes. Or do optical character recognitionto populate your address book from a photo of a business card. Or tell you when the next bus will arrive. Some of this is being done now in Japan and elsewhere. Check this out for an example.

But this is the tip of the iceberg. Google and other search providers are pushing the state of the art on the back-end of search--in the engine. But look at Google's front end. It's text based and, while that is certainly useful, it isn't the right interface for what will be hundreds of millions of network-connected, vision-enabled, mobile input devices. I want to query Google with an image sent from my phone and get data back. What building is this? What does this sign mean? What does this sentence say in English? Is this restaurant any good? Who is this person?

It's the opposite of Google Image, which takes text as input and locates matching images. Call it Google Egami. I want my Google Egami! And I bet I'm not alone...

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Josh Simons

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