Back in 2006, I made some predictions about where mobile learning might be heading, including the use of augmented reality or “Heads Up” data displays to provide information on a learner’s environment and allow learning “in situ,”. Augmented reality has recently really taken off during 2009, with a number of apps on various GPS-enabled mobile phones (notably the iPhone) providing information layered over a camera view of the world; one example of this is the Layar application.
I also predicted the use of image recognition that would effectively enable “visual searches” of objects and images in the real world (and indeed, I reiterated this belief in a comment just yesterday on Stephen Downes’ blog). Want to know more information on that bridge over there? No worries! Just point your camera at it, and image recognition will provide some suggestions on appropriate websites to look at.
When I blogged that idea, however, I’m not sure I expected this technology to actually become available quite so fast. Today, Google announced a new beta application they’ve coined “Google Goggles“. And guess what? Their concept illustrations even features a bridge as the subject of their illustrated example – even if it is an American one rather than an Australian one.
The official Google site for the project (which is still in development) provides a number of ways Goggles can be used to accomplish a “visual search”, including landmarks, books, contact information, artwork, places, logos, and even wine labels (which I anticipate could go much further, to cover product packaging more broadly).
So why is this a significant development for m-learning? Because this innovation will enable learners to “explore” the physical world without assuming any prior knowledge. If you know absolutely nothing about an object, Goggles will provide you with a start. Here’s an example: you’re studying industrial design, and you happen to spot a rather nicely-designed chair. However, there’s no information on the chair about who designed it. How do you find out some information about the chair, which you’d like to note as an influence in your own designs? A textual search is useless, but a visual search would allow you to take a photo of the chair and let Google’s servers offer some suggestions about who might have manufactured, designed, or sold it. Ditto unusual insects, species of tree, graphic designs, sculptures, or whatever you might happen to by interested in learning.
Just watch this space. I think Google Goggles is going to rock m-learning…
(via Mobility Site)