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?

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.

cultivating the roots

wi-fiHowdy. I’m currently reporting from the Cultivating the Roots conference at Bosch Baha’i School in Santa Cruz, California. So far, the sharing has been awesome. Everyone has has amazing insights and ideas for different types of projects and collaboration tools—all to help Baha’is develop better ways of interacting, collaborating, and channeling their energy into systematic action. I’m currently posting up a bunch of photos from the conference; check them out on flickr. Big ups to prema for letting me use her laptop.

It’s fascinating to ponder the holes out there in the Baha’i community that could be filled by judiciously chosen and developed IT initiatives. Throughout the day today, we’ve been talking about the needs out there—from tools to benefit Baha’i Institutions (for example, accounting software that operates according to the 19-month Baha’i calendar, or geomatics software to aid in planning various types of community campaigns) to software to sift through the Sacred Writings of the Baha’i Faith, to collaboration software to help Baha’i institutions, communities, and individuals to work together more effectively… there are so many ways that computers and the Internet can help us do our work better, yet there’s so little time to accomplish them all. A few projects that were put forth in one of the last workshops this afternoon: a functional Baha’i events database (similar to bahailocations.com) that can be used by Baha’i communities throughout the world to track their core activities, holy days, and various gatherings; an online presentation platform (similar to webconferencing) for holding formal or informal talks and “fireside chats”; and a process for providing technical and material support for Baha’i communities throughout the world who wish to develop their first websites.

So yeah, some really intense consultation here. The workshops have been the best—that’s why I really came to this conference. This morning, I attended a workshop on blogging by the authors of bahainine.com, the growing online portal to Baha’i blogs everywhere. That was awesome, just to be there and to be able to talk shop with them about blogging software, search engine optimization, content management systems, and miscellaneous Web 2.0 hobbledyhoy. The whole project is really interesting—creating an online portal to basically aggregate all the Baha’i-related content on the Internet, giving the “Baha’i blogosphere” a friendly face. The current site just contains a map and a searchable index of Baha’i blogs, but there’s a lot more in the works—photos, videos, full tagging capability, and so on. Speaking with the team that’s working on this mammoth task is immensely uplifting and exciting, and the possibilities are endless. I’ll be sure to post more later; remember to check back—apart from photos, there’ll also be videos (and/or mashups) for your enjoyment and upliftment.

varia ria ria ria ria ria

today was national jam tasting day at work. i brought homemade jam, and we tasted it. on host pieces (square sheets of cracker-like substance used to make communion wafers – also called retailles d’hosties in french. that was good for a few laughs. (p.s.: several sheets of this stuff have been swiped by well-meaning francophones so far.) the jam was good – most people seemed to like the blueberry-cranberry variety. the mixed berry jam came in a close second and the cranberry jam won its own share of converts, too. heheheh. converts.

so my family and I celebrated Mothers’ Day by going out to see the tulips at the Canadian Tulip Festival. It was a beautiful day – bright sun, cool breeze, and lots of very pretty tulips all around. I got lost in the flowers and just took picture after picture. I screwed up the focus on some of them, but most of the close shots were fine. see some of them on my photoblog.

noticed recently: farshid is posting new updates to his website again, after a long hiatus. check out his pictures from the National Baha’i Convention in Montreal. also found on his website is a link to payamos‘s blog (payam aka payou). also, if you’re a fan of Google Maps‘s satellite feature, why not check out the Baha’i Temple in Wilmette, Illinois, or the Canadian Baha’i National Centre in Thornhill, Ontario?

lastly: for those of you interested in hunting (for or against it), you’ll be interested in this article about the… well, bizarre practice of computer-aided hunting. uhh. visit a web site and shoot an animal with your mouse? I could think of more fulfilling things to be doing with my time, like… collecting toenail clippings. now, while i’m not a big fan of hunting, I recognize that it has its place, particularly hunting out of necessity (i.e. gathering food, etc.) I have to admit I’m against hunting for sport; isn’t it rather crass and disrespectful to take the life of an animal just because you want its head on your wall? Furthermore, if you’re going to hunt and kill something, it’d be honourable to at least be there when you’re doing it, no? Or even to do as early Native American hunters did and say prayers of thanks to the animal’s spirit for yielding its life in the hunt. anyway. that was a rant. a rather blunt rant, too. sorry if I’ve offended anybody. I’ll be off now. I’m going to go kill something and eat it.

bigger!

after almost five years of hanging around and not doing much at all to my computer I finally decided (with some hefty moral support) to upgrade my computer. I bought a copy of Mac OS 9.2.1 and a couple of sticks of RAM, and now my old G4 is zooming along happily as pictures get downloaded from my new digital camera. sweet. sweet. sweet. I put this picture as my desktop background. very warhol. well, I liked it. and hey – I can even use MSN messenger again. sweet. still can’t use the little display pictures on the mac version, but oh well. it’s to be expected.

I love my digital camera. I explored buzznet a bit on tuesday night. check out this person who takes pictures of Montreal metro stations as a hobby. For those not in the know, Montreal metro stations are one of my favourite things in the whole wide world. also featured on buzznet is Wil Wheaton (you know, the guy who played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: TNG). He’s cool. and there are lots of other people who take very good photos. check it out. or else.

tonight is feast night in ottawa. I have a meeting tho, for the 3CJ – in Montreal. it should be cool tho, we’re all going to the Commensal on Queen Mary, near the U of M. we’re gonna talk about HOT TOPICS OMG OMG and André Bergeron from the Conseil Baha’i du Québec will be with us to straighten us all out act as a liaison to our committee. committee committee committee committee. what a waste of letters. why are there so many double letters in the word committee? the french have it right: “comité”. anyway. uhhh I’m going back to Drummondville tomorrow, and staying until Ridvan. after that…?

watch this space. fnord.

destroy the universe, you say?

I have a folder in Eudora called my “What the hell?” folder. In it, I keep copies of unusual email, usually email I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to get. I was flipping through it today and I found this interesting tidbit, from a *.in address (India):

New Technology for Signal Deciphering

With pleasure and regret, I announce beginning of new era with a break-through in digital communication technology and data-management.

It is pleasure because we, the human will be able even to create a new heaven for us since the Nature is now unable to keep any secret with her.

It is regret because the new era will witness unbelievable deadly weapons that will be capable for destruction of not only isolated object but also the UNIVERSE.

That’s stretching it a bit, isn’t it? digital communication and data management to… destroying the universe? Maybe I really shouldn’t own that cell phone…