Bill Slawski at SEL unpacks some recent Google patent filings, some of which have local dimensions. Among the things that Bill discusses, I found the following provocative:
The most sensational aspects of the documents come towards the end where we are told that robots might be used to take pictures of products on store shelves, and in museums. A snippet from the filings:
In addition to street scenes, indexing can be applied to other image sets. In one implementation, a store (e.g., a grocery store or hardware store) is indexed. Images of items within the store are captured, for example, using a small motorized vehicle or robot. The aisles of the store are traversed and images of products are captured in a similar manner as discussed above. Additionally, as discussed above, location information is associated with each image. Text is extracted from the product images. In particular, extracted text can be filtered using a product name database in order to focus character recognition results on product names.
Robots in the isles may never come to pass but what it points to is a time when in-stock products are widely searchable (with images) and are geotagged. At a conceptual level, putting aside the precise methodology described in Bill’s post, that time will be here sooner rather than later.
Related: comScore reports holiday related (Nov-Dec) e-commerce grew 19% vs. last year to almost 28% billion. However, growth is slowing, though not the influence of the Internet over local sales/transactions.