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Seek and ye shall find -- visually!

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!"




    


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