It's been almost a year since Google released a beta of its Goggles visual search app for Android phones, and now it's time for a new milestone in the product's life cycle: Google Goggles for iPhone. Google Goggles (spell that 10 times fast) creates a visual search out of what the smartphone's camera sees through its lens. In other words, the app will scan your image when you focus on a landmark, a sign, a label, and so on, and search for matches in its database. Google refers to the Goggles search method as "computer vision."
We found Goggles to be hit or miss when we tested it on Android, and Google is quick to point out the feature's roadblocks. The company has wisely kept Google Goggles a Labs product, the experimental nature of which insulates it somewhat from external scrutiny. Goggles works better with product logos, the covers of books, DVDs, and games, and famous landmarks, says Google. It falters (or fails) with flora, fauna, and food. In our testing experience, Google's caveats have always held true.
Though for the most part we've rarely reached for Goggles as a reference tool, it has come in handy more than once while trying to identify a label on a foreign adult beverage.
Google Goggles for iPhone isn't a separate app; instead it's built into the Google Mobile App for iPhone. The update will begin rolling out today, but it hadn't hit our App Store at the time of writing--stay tuned. Goggles supports English on the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, both running iOS 4. See our real-world test of Google Goggles when it initially launched, below.