The extension of the application would be that images and video indexed by Google would be searchable by the text located within the image or video itself, a big step forward in indexing that has not previously been available.
Information Week suggests that privacy issues raised by Google Maps Street View will get more complicated as eventually YouTube videos will be indexable via the text that appears within them.
A full copy of the patent application “Recognizing Text In Images” can be viewed here.
Some choice lines from the patent:
“Digital images can include a wide variety of content…For example, digital images can illustrate landscapes, people, urban scenes, and other objects. Digital images often include text. Digital images can be captured, for example, using cameras or digital video recorders. Image text (i.e., text in an image) typically includes text of varying size, orientation, and typeface. Text in a digital image derived, for example, from an urban scene (e.g., a city street scene) often provides information about the displayed scene or location. A typical street scene includes, for example, text as part of street signs, building names, address numbers, and window signs.”
I may be stating the blatantly obvious when I say that if Google has found a way to index text in static images and video this is a great leap forward in the progression of search technology. 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.