goggling google goggles

I don’t often get excited about mobile apps (heck, I haven’t even downloaded Angry Birds yet) but as far as I’m concerned, this one is the best thing since sliced bread: Google Goggles, part of the official Google app. It’s a piece of image recognition software that uses pictures you take with your mobile camera to search the web. In a nutshell: search with images instead of words. It’s not perfect yet, but it does seem to be good at recognizing things like logos, landmarks, and so on. To give you an example, I was able to take a picture of Dogs Playing Poker and it knew what it was. On the other hand, I took a picture of a logo off a bottle of Brio Chinotto and it couldn’t tell it from a no-smoking sign.

But by far the most exciting feature of Google Goggles is that it will recognize text—block letters, not necessarily handwritten—and translate it. I tried it with some bilingual signs on an OC Transpo bus here in Ottawa and the translation turned out to be more or less correct. Here’s how it works:

google goggles

Take a picture of some sort of text. It should be fairly legible; I figure block letters are best. OCR isn’t the best at picking up messy letters. Goggles will find the text in your picture and tell you what it sees. In this case, it’s pretty close.

google goggles translation

Click through to the translation screen, and you’ll see Google Translate giving you roughly what the words say. It’ll automatically tell what language is displayed and translate it into English (or whatever else).

Now, at the moment, Goggles seems to only be able to recognize a small subset of languages, among them English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. It definitely seems to work best at recognizing languages written in Latin characters. It was even able to recognize some Vietnamese text I found, although the sentence it spat back at me was mostly garbage. I tried it on a number of other alphabets that use non-latin scripts—Chinese characters, Russian, Lao, and Thai—and didn’t have any luck; it didn’t even recognize them as language. That would probably be my main request to the Goggles team—recognizing non-latin scripts, especially things like Chinese, Thai, Korean and Japanese. Definitely a promising app, though, with sweeping potentialities: imagine if you could understand any shop sign you came by on your trip to China, or Japan, or wherever, just by snapping a picture of it with your smartphone?

oh wow

conf2009 been a while hasn’t it? well apart from all the usual trouble I get up to in between blog posts, I finished up some work implementing the design of the official website of the Toronto and Vancouver Baha’i regional conferences—which, coincidentally, are coming up in just a few short weeks. (There should still be time to register if you haven’t yet.) After plenty of civilized discussion (lol) with friend and fellow webservant Martin (warning: link is hopelessly out of date), we ended up putting up a simple little WordPress installation to house the whole thing, and adapted an existing theme to use an already-developed and -approved visual design; the bulk of the work happened in about 24 hours after a few frantic phone calls. Maybe not the most rewarding thing I’ve done in the last while (the recent redesign of the Conference Board of Canada’s home page takes that cake), but I can assure that the adrenaline rush of meeting the challenge and ensuing success did in fact kick it high up onto the list. not that I make a policy of working on extremely short-notice web projects, but something else has been flung my way just tonight that I expect to be working on in the next week, before I head off with family for a (well-deserved?) Christmas vacation visiting my extended family in the Maritime provinces (Moncton and area, mostly). Sounds fun huh?

oh and look at me using all these parentheses!

baha’i explorer

bahaiexplorernow here’s a rather eye-popping addition to your Favourites bar: Baha’i Explorer is a Baha’i content aggregator—a clean, concise website that offers an overview of the latest Baha’i-related content to appear on the Internet, including listings from prominent Baha’i blogs, news headlines, Youtube videos, music, flash presentations and more. It’s an individual initiative, and is by all appearances 100% legit. Seriously, you need to bookmark it now, and maybe spread it on Digg and del.icio.us and Facebook and all those other sites. Do it. Go already!

national baha’i magazine online

Interesting news: Baha’i Canada, the national Baha’i magazine, is now available online—all you need to do is log in with your name and Baha’i ID number and you’re getting Baha’i Canada online! Sweet! Heartbeat (the regular supplement on the Fund) and Vanguard (the regular youth supplement) are available, as well. What are you waiting for—go check it out!

victoriaville in high-res satellite photos

du haut de la montagneyay! Google Maps (and Google Earth) finally added high-res satellite photos of my favourite place in the world: Victoriaville. now you can see the house where I lived, the Victoriaville Loblaws store where I worked, the SADC Arthabaska-Érable (where I also worked), the Tim Horton’s where I stopped after getting lost on my first day in Victoriaville, Mont Arthabaska and other fascinating places. If you add MetalToad’s Flickr KML feed, you can even view some of my flickr photos of Victoriaville in Google Earth.

the baha’i encyclopedia

If you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to these past few weeks, I have four answers for you:

this last item is pretty interesting actually. you should check it out. you probably know of wikipedia, especially if you’ve read any high school or undergraduate research papers lately. well, bahaikipedia (haw haw) is essentially wikipedia all about the Baha’i Faith. it’s a growing project, meaning that it’s still pretty tiny and is badly in need of contibutions. I’ve been adding some basic information about the Canadian Baha’i community, including profiles of cities like Ottawa and Montreal. if you’re bedridden and have nothing else to do, or if you’re still healthy and have a little time left in your day after all your regular commitments are up, check it out, create your own account and see what you could add to it!