Google Can now recognise the Mona Lisa

By | November 1, 2011
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In the Computers newsletter this month:
  • Google Can now recognise the Mona Lisa
  • A real-life James Bond Gadget
  • Microsoft change how PDFs work in Internet Explorer
Hello ,

Well, the first rush of the Family History book is over. I haven’t found any secret agents in my past, but I did see a gadget a secret agent would be proud of the other day…

Plus, I spotted something new that the folk at Google have come up with that seems a bit like magic – when it works…

Google Picture Search – a new add-on to an old bit of Google
Back when Google first created their “search engine”, all it did was search web pages for text you typed in.

Over time they’ve added all sorts of extras – shopping searches, maps, Google Streetview and so on.

One of the first things they added was image search. You type in (say) “leaning tower of Pisa” and it finds you pictures of it.

But they’ve added a new feature. Now if you go to (or to and click on “images” at the top) you can drag a photo from your Pictures or My Documents folder (or any folder, come to that) into the search bar in the middle of the screen. It’ll then do two things:

  1. It’ll try to work out where the picture is from. This doesn’t always work – it needs to be somewhere pretty famous.
  2. It’ll search for other, similar photos and show them to you.

If you’re running Windows XP, you’ll need to be using Google Chrome or Firefox – it won’t work in the older version of Internet Explorer.

To be honest, I can’t think of many practical uses for this. If you’ve got a photo and want to know where it is, you could use it, but only if it’s somewhere famous. Or if you’ve been to (say) the Agora at Athens and want to see other places with similar buildings. But there aren’t many uses.

But as something that makes you sit back and think “How on earth do they do that?”, I think it’s amazing.

It’s not just for photos, either. If you have a pencil sketch of (say) the houses of parliament, you could search for that to find photos of it. Or you could search for a company by using its logo (handy for pub quizzes where you have to identify the company based on the logo). Or it can recognise famous paintings and tell you who painted them.

I’d bet Google will be improving it over the next year, too, so it can identify more places.

But for now, sadly, it doesn’t recognise Black Coombe, visible from my back garden.

Roger Moore & Q’s toys become real
Not the one where the car becomes invisible (that was a later Bond…). But the watches that you can talk into.

A company called SWAP have launched a watch that is also a mobile phone. It’ll do all the things most mobile phones will do, including playing music, taking photos (also useful for budding secret agents) and of course, making and receiving phone calls. You can see it here:

To be fair, I don’t think Rolex will be quaking in their boots – it’s not the most attractive watch ever, despite being pretty expensive. And dialling a number is apparently a bit of a fiddle, with the small touch-screen instead of buttons. But it really is a watch that’s also a phone.

I’ve wondered for a while why you never see phone watches – the technology is there and it means you don’t need to remember to take your phone with you and you don’t need to have a pocket to keep it in. It turns out they’ve been around for a while, just not caught on.

Unlike Bond’s watches, though, it doesn’t have a magnet to let you undo zips. Maybe that’ll be in the next model…

Looking at pdfs online
If you have a recent version of internet Explorer or one of the other browsers, you may have noticed that when you look at a pdf file online, the way it displays it has changed. In particular the buttons and options you get around the screen have changed. You may find you don’t have the button to make the pdf fit into the screen – meaning you either are left with the writing too small or the page so big it doesn’t all fit on the screen.

If this hasn’t happened to you, great – no need to worry and you can ignore the rest of this part of the newsletter!

If it has, move the mouse while the pdf is open and some buttons will appear at the bottom right. Hover the mouse over each one in turn and a little message will pop up saying what it does. One of them is “Open file in Adobe reader” – click on that one and the pdf will be displayed with all the buttons around it that you used to get – including the one to make it just fill the screen.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m off to see if anyone’s making that invisible car yet…

Tim Wakeling

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