Point & Find: Forget Typing When You Want To Search


One of the real problems for mobile search is how hard it is for users to simply enter and perform searches. The difficulty of entering search terms makes using search services unattractive, except in extreme cases of need, while the impact of each additional click on the likelihood a mobile user will complete a task is well-documented. Lots of companies are attacking this space with various approaches, and Nokia researchers are no exception. Here at Nokia World, they’re showing off “Point and Find”, a search utility that doesn’t need text, or even voice entry; users just take a picture of what they want to search on.

pf2.jpgFor instance, the demo here has a poster of a streetscape. If you snap a picture of the mexican restaurant on the street with the app, you get presented with search results about it (see pic), highlighting the awards it has won. If you photo one of the cars, you get info about that particular model. Perhaps if you shoot a pic of the movie theater, you get a page showing film times. The possibilities are pretty endless, and the software can be set up to return all different sorts of information.

pf3.jpgIt also works with real-world objects. For example, if you take a picture of one of the Nokia handsets on the demo stand, the app responds with a promo video about it. This is certainly a far easier way to find local and product info than text-based search, and it beats voice search, too. Obviously you can’t search on things using it you can’t see, but it offers an easy way to link the real world with the web and digital content. In a presentation about Nokia’s UI vision (see top image), the possibility was also raised of the app recognizing contacts’ faces, or the location of certain places that are relevant to the user. While a basic search app might be available somewhat soon, that more advance sort of visual search is still quite a ways away, but it illustrates the potential of such a service has to impact how people interact with the physical world around them, through their mobile device.

I should probably point out that this sort of application isn’t all that new, but the functionality has improved by leaps and bounds since the last time I played with one.

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