Google Acquires Word Lens

For an undisclosed sum…. and makes it available for free.

The app translates words in images and photos into your own language – a typical example is to help decipher road signs in a foreign land.

Unless Google just bought it to reduce competition, the purchase could indicate an extra dimension will be coming to its mobile search offerings. I can imagine being able to enter an image directly into the search app. This already is kinda possible with image search, where you can enter an image URL and let Google find similar images.

Future uses could include:

  • Take a photo of a restaurant sign – and Google will combine that with GPS to bring up a menu and reviews
  • Take a photo of a product (as an alternative to its barcode) and find price comparisons
  • Take a photo of a person and find their social media profiles!
  • Take a photo of a numbered letterbox or house and order a taxi (again, combining the image data with GPS

Google Helpouts: Same Fate As Google Answers?

Many years ago Google had a Q&A service where people paid for answers to questions that were able to be researched (properly) online and offline. It provided an income of sorts for 500 researchers, and overheads were low. Yet Google decided to kill it off. If they had left it running, by now there would be an incredible body of knowledge that they could enhance their search results with.

Now we have the newly launched Google Hangouts. You pay for help and advice that you receive over video.

The categories being offered initially include art and music, computers, cooking, education and careers, fashion and beauty, fitness and nutrition, health and home and garden.

The Helpouts range from free to $240 or more. Some examples include chemistry tutoring and homework, learning to play guitar, yoga instruction, French language lessons, fixing computer problems or refrigerator repair.

“With Helpouts, you can choose who you get help from based on their qualifications, their availability, their price, their ratings and reviews,” Manber said.

“You can connect instantly or book in advance. You can get help from individuals or from brands you already know and trust, like Sephora, One Medical, Weight Watchers, Redbeacon (a Home Depot company), and Rosetta Stone.”

Given Google’s track record of giving up on products, I hope nobody invests too heavily in this…

Google Drive Officially Launched – Cheap Too!

Google Drive is now official and real, see the press release.

Surprisingly good is the low upgrade prices for those who want to use more than the free 5GB:

  • 25GB for $2.49/month
  • 100GB for $4.99/month
  • 1TB for $49.99/month

Google Drive is therefore cheaper than Amazon S3 (prices here), although Amazon is targeted at enterprise customers, who are much more likely to use up their full allowance.

And substantially cheaper than DropBox.

Google Drive vs DropBox

Leaked a week before it is officially released are leaked details of Google’s storage service named Google Drive.

Here’s how it compares with Dropbox:

Google: 5GB free
DropBox: 2GB free

Google: Very best & fast servers
DropBox: Probably not nearly as good

Google: Reliable
DropBox: Reliable

Google: Trustworthy?
DropBox: Trustworthy?

Google: Loathed as a company
DropBox: Loved

DropBox has first mover advantage. Most likely DropBox will keep their existing customers, because people are loathe to mess with switching providers, no matter how easy it will be. But Google will certainly snare customers from their other products who are considering such a service. With time most internet users will have a need for cloud space, and Google is certainly capable of being the biggest provider.

Google Enlightens on Spam Decisions

Ever wondered why spam ends up in your spam folder? I’ve always been curious, and because I have a (very minor) hacker bent, I’ve been keen on having more control over it – for example I’d like to spam anything that is not written in English (because clearly they don’t know me…).

Google isn’t providing control, but they are now divulging reasons for why an email gets pigeon-holed as spam.

The five key categories are:

  • Phishing scams
  • Messages from an unconfirmed sender
  • Messages you sent to Spam
  • Similarity to suspicious messages
  • Administrator-set policies

Look at any particular email in your spam folder and you’ll now see a message like this:

Why is this message in Spam? It’s similar to messages that were detected by our spam filters.

Visit Google Support for deeper details.

New: Symptom Search

One day we will be able to self-diagnose. The next step towards that goal has been provided by Google. Now, if you search for a symptom or multiple symptoms, Google might return “related searches”. That’s all Google will dare call them, because it is just the algorithm making the connection, not a person and certainly not a doctor.

While this start is exciting, I hope people don’t mistake the first 5 results for being the only possible illnesses related to the symptoms…

Google Now Indexing Symbols… Like +

I was wondering if and when it would happen. Google have a product called Google+, which they have high hopes for. Yet they chose a brand name that could not be searched for in Google!

Google can’t show themselves favoritism, so they now index a wide array of symbols:

I’ve recently noticed that Google started to show results for queries like [.], [,], [:], [;], [#], [%], [@], [^], [)], [~], [|], ["], [<], [$]. When you search for [%], Google shows the results for [percent sign] and that happens irrespective of the interface language, so it’s not a synonym generated by Google’s algorithms. [source]

It’s not perfect, because obviously some are used for advanced search features within Google – so a search for a phrase within quotes won’t only bring up pages where it appears in quotes…

And if you search for : you get anatomical results because it is searching for the name of the colon symbol rather than the symbol itself

Google Breaking Their Own Guidelines

Google is trying out a new AdWords format, in which searchers can sign up for newsletters from within an ad. If you are signed into your Google account, the form is pre-filled with your email address.

I’m wondering how this fits with Google’s own landing page guidelines. Obviously the ads are not landing pages, and the advertiser is probably still required to have the information on the site the ad points to… but the guidelines state

If you do request personal information, provide a privacy policy that discloses how the information will be used.

If the searcher subscribes, they just see this:

No immediate opportunity to see a privacy policy.

Original story at Search Engine Land

Maps is now Crowd Sourced

The new version of Google Map Maker lets you submit updates, edits, or other changes to a map—and once it’s approved, you’ll see your additions on the live Google map.


…With the redesign, you can add currently unmarked hiking or biking trails, rivers, or ball fields, and update existing buildings and landmarks by drawing your addition directly on a map. In this way, Google can rely on your map updates to essentially crowd-source its maps.

Changes will also appear on Google Earth. As they say here, spam will always be a problem. You can guarantee that someone will manage to use this system for wholesale spamming that will work for a while. Don’t be surprised if the crowd-sourcing (ie free data) gets turned off one day.



Verbatim for Raw Google Results

Google have unleashed a wonderful new feature called Verbatim. It can be found in Search Tools in the left navigation of search results. What it does is strip the search results of everything that might give you a different results page than someone else in another land. No personalization, no country bias, no spelling corrections, no synonyms, and so on.

Full story: