With the ever growing presence of Bing, Google needs to keep pushing out useful new features - like these...
The Menlo Park based giant has announced two major additions to its armoury: image and real time searches. Both are big news, with image searches initially added into Android based smartphones allowing photos to be taken with the camera and results then shown in the browser.
The - as usual quirky - Google video (above) does a good job of explaining this, giving the example of taking a picture of a book cover to get information about that title, as well as paintings and landmark information. On top of this local businesses can be identified with augmented reality picking out data while even business cards can be photographed and their details recognised. For the security conscious/conspiratorial user image search histories can be disabled in settings.
Google admits image search is still "in its infancy" and says food, product, cars, animals, furniture and plant recognition has yet to be implemented. That said, it is an important first step and can be downloaded from Android Marketplace under the name 'Google Goggles' now. Expect other platforms to get image search soon, while it would be handy to add into laptops which almost all feature integrated web cams these days.
Next is real time search, something we've widely expected since the agreements between Bing Google and Twitter. Consequently when searching users will be able to cycle through live updates from across the likes of Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook, MySpace, Jaiku and Identi.ca (yes, best change your security preferences if you want extra privacy). Live blog results are also being added into breaking news.
As always, the roll-out of this feature will be incremental with English language searches the first to benefit. You'll be able to see these results using the 'Latest results' link or selecting 'Latest' from the search options menu. A 'hot topics' section has also been built into Google Trends which has now dropped its beta tags and moved out of Labs (a graduation also matched this week by Offline Gmail).
So important, but absolutely vital, changes - keep em coming Google!