Why enter text? It's much easier to search with a quick snap.
Bangalore, March 23 2015: The Biblical exhortation: "Seek, and ye shall find", assumes rich, new meaning, in an Age when digital search engines answer most of our questions. But entering a search term in text can be irksome when one is on the move. Which is why mobile visual search -- snapping a quick photo of an object and submitting it to a search engine -- may soon become the most popular way of asking a question. Consider:
You find an advertisement for a movie in your newspaper. You click a picture of the poster with your phone-camera. A visual search app identifies the film; brings up a synopsis; lists the cast and few recent reviews; tells you if the film has won any awards; tells you where it is playing in your neighbourhood ( using the GPS in your phone) and links an online booking service, listing show times and ticket rates.
You are window-shopping in a mall and see a pair of shoes in a store window that catches your fancy. Before stepping in and subjecting yourself to high pressure salesmanship, you want to learn more. You click a photo of the shoe. The visual search app identified the brand, displays the description and most importantly, lists the prices at different shops as well as online. Armed with this knowledge you stride into the shop...
Google launched a visual search engine last year called Goggles. It searches for the image in its databases and also scans bar codes and QR codes. For some reason, the app did not take off among iPhone users and was taken off the iTunes page. You can still find it as an Android app.
Another popular mobile visual search engine is Camfind, whose motto is "Point, Shoot & Discover". It is available for Android, Apple and Windows phones and tablets and has the added advantage of voice search, if you don’t want to take a picture. It also offers VoiceOver of identified objects, so that you can learn know how words are pronounced... great for foreign trips, when you are desperate to know how to ask for a bottle of mineral water in the local lingo.
In recent days, a New York-based company, founded and fuelled by Indian talent, is making waves in the mobile visual search business. Four years ago, Omar Tayeb and Ambarish Mishra , both then working for AXA Insurance, UK were in a pub in Cobham, England, playing with a one pound sterling note and playfully speculating on how augmented reality might enhance the image of Queen Elizabeth II on the note. That germ of an idea led them to quit their jobs, rope in two more colleagues and start Blippar, an image recognition platform and visual browser. Till last year Blippar was essentially a corporate offering with clients like Coca Cola, Pizza Hut and Heinz ketchup who embedded Blippar in their hoardings and ads, letting mobile users get more information.
At the ongoing SXSW ( South By South West) Conference in Austin, Texas (US), Ambarish announced the imminent relaunch of Blippar as a free app. For starters, Blippar will be making all English-language album covers, fiction books, DVD covers and movie posters blippable. When a user "blipps" one of these items or images they will be presented with a range of contextual information. If they blipp an album cover they can access videos of the band, a source to buy tickets to an upcoming concert, details on what people are saying about them on Twitter or photos of the band itself. Blippar app will available for download on iOS and Android in April 2015.
“Today marks the beginning of a new era of search, where curious users will be able to visually search the world", says Blippar CEO Ambarish, whose company has 50 million global users and its India HQ offices. Inevitably the Indian presence will translate into some desi innovation flowing into Blippar and raising the bar in the Make in India saga while ensuring "he that seeketh, findeth!"