When I was in Seattle recently, I was struck by a conversation between a counter patron and bar tender who were swapping stories about their latest favorite technologies. Their mutual favorite was Google Goggles, a handy piece of technology that lets you take pictures from your phone's camera and use them to search the Web.
Google isn't the only company that can do this. Microsoft can, too -- though only on the iPhone and iPod Touch at this time. The "Bing for iPhone app camera scanning feature" is a lot like Google Goggles, in fact. Take a quick snap shot of a wine label and you can use it to search for more about the wine, winery. Shoot a book cover and Bing it to get reviews, more information on the author, and more. You get the idea....
I asked the Softies how and if the Bing for iPhone app camera scanning feature is different from Goggles (beyond the fact that it doesn't have a memorable and clever name). "Google Goggles does have this feature, but Bing uses video-mode barcode scanning, which is faster than the scanning that Google Goggles uses," a spokesperson replied.
(Currently the Bing for iPhone app camera scanning feature doesn't make use of Microsoft Tag barcoding, but maybe someday...)
Also on the "maybe someday" checklist is availability of this Bing search feature on other platforms. I asked whether Microsoft had any plans to introduce it for Android phones and/or Windows Phone 7 devices. The answer, from the aforementioned spokesperson:
"In regard to Android, the Bing for Android app is currently still under development, and will announce its features when we launch the app in the coming months. For Windows Phone 7, Bing will offer an integrated search experience on devices, but we have nothing further to share."
Microsoft's Bing for iPhone app, introduced in December 2009, has earned some appreciation from a number of pundits and users, as well as some criticism from those dwindling Windows Mobile phone users who are feeling left behind.