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Android's Google Goggles speeds scanning, adds Sudoku cheats

Google's photo-searching app adds some more capabilities, including one that solves Sudoku puzzles.

Google Goggles gets bar code scanning
Bar code scanning comes to Google Goggles. Google

I've never been completely sold on the accuracy or practicality of Google Goggles, but an update to the Goggles for Android app makes this experiment in photo searching more useful day-to-day.

The new Google Goggles for Android 1.3 adds three significant features--faster Google's bar code and QR scanner, the ability to recognize print ads like in newspaper and magazines, and (for a curve ball) Sudoku.

Google's bar code reader was an early addition, and in fact, Google's teams introduced the first bar code scanning app when the Android platform was just stirring--we saw it even before the first Android phone hit shelves. Google also helped make QR codes a more recognized part of the techie lexicon, though they're still far from mainstream.

As for recognizing print ads in our tests, Goggles made fairly quick work of Shell and a Pringles logos we found in a glossy magazine. Instead of returning just a single Web link as the app did in an experiment earlier this year, the feature now returns full Web listings for Web sites, Wikipedia entries, images, and so on.

It's the inclusion of Sudoku that throws me. Scan an entire Sudoku puzzle, and Google will calculate the answers. Now what kind of brain-teaser is that? One that nevertheless fits into the Google Labs psyche of experimentation, but it won't make you friends at any international Sudoku championships.

Download Google Goggles for free from the Android Market.

Article updated at 1:50pm PT to correct a statement about barcode scanning.