Visual search is only scratching the surface (if you’ll pardon the ophthalmology pun). Sure, you’re starting to see QR Codes in Times Square and in magazines (see below example), and there has been a 1200% increase in QR code scanning during the last half of 2010. But going from 1 person scanning to 12 people scanning in 6 months is also a 1200% increase, and who really cares about 12 people? Oh boy, stretching the truth with statistics is fun!
My friends are relatively young, and I would say 95% of them have smartphones. If I asked all of them what a QR code was, or showed them a picture of one and asked them what it was, maybe one would know what it is and what to do with it. While hardly a scientific study, it still indicates a problem. If this young, tech-savvy group doesn’t know what QR codes are, I highly doubt we’re going to see wide adoption of the technology.
The good news is that mobile visual search is evolving beyond barcode scanners, and I hope in the next couple of years it is going to bring some pretty cool innovations. Here’s some of the latest advances happening now, and where I’d love to see visual search grow in the coming years.
Expanding The Reach Of Print Media
Although much physical and digital ink has been spilled over the coming death of print media, it’s not dead yet, and won’t be for quite some time. Although QR codes are starting to become more common in print, I doubt many creative directors relish the chance to stick a big fat QR code on their highly conceptualized print ads. One of the most innovative technologies I have seen to get around this is from Digimarc, who digitally watermark images, allowing mobile users to scan the image alone and get access to more information (full disclosure: Digimarc is a current client of Anvil). Digitally watermarking is a nice way to preserve the integrity of print, while still giving mobile users access to inside information.
Bringing The Real World To Your Phone
Admittedly, Google Goggles is blazing the trail for visual search. You can now scan text, landmarks, books, contact info, artwork, wine, and logos to get more information on them, which is great, but doesn’t go far enough. What’s going to be truly powerful for visual search is making it smart enough to go beyond looking up famous landmarks and books.
Want to know what kind of crab grass is growing in your lawn and how to deal with it? Simply take a picture and the type of grass will pop up on your phone, along with how to kill it. What about what type of dog you see across the street? Take a photo and information on the breed will pop up, including where you can purchase one in the area.
This type of visual search will involve a whole new level of artificial intelligence to understand more general images, but considering the pace at which Google is innovating, I would say this probably isn’t as far off as we might think.
Where We’re Going
Visual search is an exciting frontier yet to be fully embraced and developed for the mobile platform. The ability to simply take a photo or video and learn more about the print and physical world around you is a powerful tool only available in the mobile space. I’m excited to see how visual search develops over the coming years.
What do you think? What would you like to be able to do with visual search?