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Google Soon to Recognize Text in Images?




Information Week has reported that in June of 07 Google filed a patent application, which has just become available, outlining a “method of optical character recognition in digital images.” The application seems to cover both static images as well as video. The ability to do this could radically change a number of existing Google services as well as again change the way the Internet marketing world interacts with images and video.

Being able to identify text in images and video would be an extremely large leap in search engine indexing technology. Being able to index the content of videos and other new social media would most likely either force a change in the way search engines have to build their SERPs or provide opportunities to build highly relevant image and video search functions that could generate significant relevancy from the text content within the media.

Clearly this would not be a complete solution for new service development, as many images and video do not contain text to index. Still as Duncan Riley at TechCrunch summed up nicely what I was thinking when I read Information Weeks coverage of this patent:

This will make every book in the Google Books database really searchable, with the next step being YouTube, Flickr (or Picasa Web) and more. The search capabilities of the future just became seriously advanced.

  • http://www.theratingblog.com Alan Johnson

    Recognizing text in images will definitely be revolutionary and create quite some buzz, if they manage to pull it through this year, it will definitely be a strong candidate for 2008’s most important Internet event.

    Alan Johnson

  • http://EdwardKhoo.com Edward

    If they managed to do that then it will be easier for users to get more targeted images, nice job Google!

  • http://www.GoldSluiceBoxes.com Matt Fritz

    I wonder if that means soon spammers will have something like that to read and bypass the little CAPTCHA images

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  • http://www.understandfamousquotes.com Famous Quotes

    Google is always trying to do something new and they will most likely accomplish it. Like Helen Keller said, “While they were saying among themselves it cannot be done, it was done.”

  • http://bloggingexperiment.com Ben Cook

    Matt, that’s exactly what I was thinking about. Would seem like it would be the next logical step.

    Also, I wonder how this would play out. I mean would it replace the alt text in the SE’s mind? Or is this just another step in trying to be able to identify images?

  • http://www.theratingblog.com Alan Johnson

    Who knows, if people interested in bypassing the captcha image were to have access to this technology and use it to their own advantage, audio verification would most likely be an option.

    Alan Johnson

  • Roderick

    Ben,

    I was wondering the same thing about alt text when I wrote this article but the obvious answer and one I tried to include in my articles was that not all images or video have text to be read, so this would not be the death of alt text.

    Roderick

  • http://searchenginetigers.com Simon Heseltine

    This would be huge for online Yellow Pages, the ability to rip text out of the ads… this would give Google one huge leg up in local.

  • http://www.sureshchowhan.com/blog Suresh Chowhan

    By this technique, search a relevant image will be easier for users. And make pages containing images spiderable.

  • http://www.ychange.com Small Business Marketing

    This is awesome technology and will most likely chew up cycles and bandwidth but who cares…..Now we can search a lot of the stored information that wasn’t cataloged with the Internet in mind.

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  • http://bloggingexperiment.com Ben Cook

    But really, how often would you search for images by the text on the image? I mean sure some bloggers use images for their name of the blog or some of something along those lines but other than that, I really don’t see it being all that useful.

  • http://www.gowfb.com/ GoWFB

    Wow! That would be amazing if they could make that possible!

  • http://sblogs.biz Tom Melde

    google does not cease to surprise!

  • http://www.brianchappell.com Brian Chappell

    The ability to crawl and read text inside videos is a big deal IMO. Brett Tabke pointed out this was coming about 7 months ago. Helps to know the right people doesn’t it :)

  • http://www.englishblinds.co.uk Wooden Pete

    It would still leave it open to abuse, because although the software may able to recognize the text in an image, that doesn’t stop people putting text into an image that isn’t relevant to the image. Having said that, it is still a big step forward in indexing images.

  • http://sblogs.biz Tom Melde

    google tries to fill immense and it at him not bad it turns out :)

  • http://www.theratingblog.com Alan Johnson

    Ben, you know what they say: “a picture is worth a thousand words”, so that, sure, an image can be just as relevant as a 1000-word article :)

    Alan Johnson

  • http://www.rowdy.com Nascar

    This is a great step forward by Google search. When the patented application can read Magic Eye 3D illusions, I will be really impressed.

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  • http://www.GoldSluiceBoxes.com Matt Fritz

    Also with Google wanting to scan all the worlds books, this would make it easier for them to search text inside a scanned image of a book.

  • http://www.yiwu-sourcing-agent.com/news-events/yiwu-market/index.html Yiwu

    Oh,Its good news…Which I had looking forward to

  • http://EdwardKhoo.com Edward

    Great move by Google, it would be a great chance for photoblog to get more traffic

  • http://seonotes.wordpress.com/ seonotes

    It’s a good thing that Google is working on finding ways to improve relevancy of search.

  • http://www.thevanblog.com Steven Bradley

    This would definitely be a huge advance. So far what I’ve seen of OCR technology hasn’t left me overly impressed, though I admit it’s been awhile since I used any.

    In regards to alt text I think we need to ask how much will Google’s technology cost? Will this be something that can easily and inexpensively added to screen readers? If not then alt text isn’t going away any time soon.

    As for spammers and captcha it’s just part of the same game that’s been going on for a long time. Spammers figure out how to get around some technology so someone comes up with a new way to stop them. Spammers respond in kind. It’s the endless cat and mouse game.

  • http://www.myblogthoughts.com Jim Hunter

    This is not anything new. For years I have been able to sick OmniPage on an image and it can locate the text in it and OCR it out into a text file. And the latest OmniPage 15 (yes, it has been around for a LONG time) does an excellent job! So if this is something you have been waiting for, wait no longer, go get OmniPage 15. Google should not be awarded the patent unless they are using some new way to locate the text in the image, since prior art does apply here.

  • http://bushidoblog.com.ar Zen

    There have been some sites that were able to do image recongnition. Can’t remember any of them now… Anyway, wouldn’t Google Image Labler for texted images be cheaper? They could always give away a free lava lamp or something cool as a prize.

  • Mike Monaco

    Captcha is already broken…http://sam.zoy.org/pwntcha/

    OCR is nothing new.

  • http://www.paydayland.com.au Payday Land

    That’s pretty interesting. I hope to see the progress in the months to come.

  • http://www.theratingblog.com Alan Johnson

    Steven, I agree, spammers will always try to bypass everything website owners throw at them and, in the end, it is important to always try to be one step ahead.

    Alan Johnson

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  • http://www.ejetgroup.com jacky

    This is not anything new. For years I have been able to sick OmniPage on an image and it can locate the text in it and OCR it out into a text file. And the latest OmniPage 15 (yes, it has been around for a LONG time) does an excellent job! So if this is something you have been waiting for, wait no longer, go get OmniPage 15. Google should not be awarded the patent unless they are using some new way to locate the text in the image, since prior art does apply here.