Searching by phone: mobile camera phones and internet search

With Google looking at advertisements on phones, I was wondering how much more mobile phones might be capable of doing. There are some interesting answers to that question. The one I’m writing about today involves a different way of providing information to search engines, and other uses for phones.

The next really big step in providing search results to people?

Could it be in making the search engine transparent to the process?

Imagine pointing your phone at something, and taking a picture of it, and getting search results, or being led directly to a web page that was relevant to the picture.

This search could include taking pictures of two dimensional objects, such as advertisments, print media, photos, billboards, street signs, business signs, user manuals, paintings, and more.

It can also look at three dimensional objects, and can be aided by visible markings, logos, printing, labels, and more. These images can include both animate and inanimate objects, and could involve looking at the faces of people and other biometric information.

Nonvisual information could also be captured, such as sounds, and keywords created for that information.

A picture of a payment display could be taken, and then a image of a credit card to provide payment for entrance through an electronically controlled gate.

Comparison prices of items photographed could be returned.

Other uses may involve actions other than a search, including a purchase from a vending machine, or the changing of channels on a television.

Input could also be made via sign language input and human speech.

That’s what the folks at Linkmemobile (Evryx) are trying to achieve. As they say on their site: “your camera cell phone is your mouse.”

A patent application assigned to the company was published by the US Patent Office earlier this month, and it describes how this technology may work.

Use of image-derived information as search criteria for internet and other search engines

United States Patent Application 20060002607
Inventors: Wayne C. Boncyk and Ronald H. Cohen
Assigned to Evryx Technologies, Inc.
Filed: August 15, 2005
Published January 5, 2006


Search terms are derived automatically from images captured by a camera equipped cell phone, PDA, or other image capturing device, submitted to a search engine to obtain information of interest, and at least a portion of the resulting information is transmitted back locally to, or nearby, the device that captured the image.

The demo on the Evryx shows this type of image search in action.

The Pondering Primate discusses this type of physical world hyperlink in The Killer App For Mobile.

I think I’ll be revisiting the excellent series at Authentic Boredom on Mobile Web Design. Evryx may or may not be the future of search, but we will see the mobile web only grow in importance, and it seems like a good idea to be ready for it.


7 thoughts on “Searching by phone: mobile camera phones and internet search”

  1. Thanks, Nadir.

    That was an interesting approach from Google, wasn’t it, in asking for mobile numbers to get GMail. You have to ask yourself why, when asked for something like that.

  2. Good post. I think we should be ready for mobile advertising, sort of a Pay-per-message read or answered. People will be asked phone numbers from companies and then receive targeted advertising message text. I’m pretty sure Google is ready to do this at any time, why would they have asked people to give their mobile numbers to get gmail?

  3. Wow, very interesting. I have been in the mobile industry for years and it never ceases to amaze me how quickly things change and appear. I haven’t heard about this until reading the article. This would definitely be unique and interesting…

  4. Hi Mike,

    I’m a little surprised that you haven’t heard much about this since the post came out in 2006. You’re right though, mobile is changing very quickly, and it can be hard to keep up with all the changes.

  5. I did hear about this some time ago, but since then I don’t think that anything came about of it. I’m usually someone who is on top of technology and advancements, but phones just don’t do anything for me. I still have a plain, basic cell that can call, text, and take pictures. I know, I know, you are saying that my cell is not basic, but it really is (no touch screen, cannot send long text messages, I don’t have the internet, etc.). It amazes me what they keep coming out with and how soon people snatch these things up no matter the cost.

  6. Hi Ryan,

    Phones have come a long way in the 5 years that I wrote this post, and we’re starting to see these types of features and processes become more and more available, even from companies like Google. The costs are coming down too, somewhat like the costs of phones being subsidized in their early days, so that more and more people pay for service charges rather than the high cost of the equipment itself.

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