5 Google Lens fea­tures we can’t wait to try out

With ev­ery­thing from text recog­ni­tion to real-time re­sults, Google Lens is leap­ing into the fu­ture. LEIF JOHN­SON re­ports

Android Advisor - - Contents -

We all know Google as a pow­er­house for search re­sults when we’re en­ter­ing text into a search en­gine, but the sub­stan­tial im­prove­ments to Google Lens an­nounced at Google I/O to­day ef­fec­tively trans­form the AI ser­vice into a real-time search en­gine for the world around us –

all with the help of on-board cam­era apps. Here’s what we’re look­ing for­ward to the most.

1. AR in­te­gra­tion with Google Maps

Some­times, es­pe­cially in un­fa­mil­iar cities, it’s hard to tell which direc­tion you’re fac­ing, even when Google Maps shows you right where you’re stand­ing.

Soon, though, you’ll be able to ac­ti­vate your cam­era in Google Maps and see help­ful con­tex­tual in­for­ma­tion for the scene you’re look­ing at in the real world. Sim­ply raise your cam­era, aim it at a scene, and you’ll see in­for­ma­tion about var­i­ous busi­nesses around you, as well as the names of the streets. Not only will this make it eas­ier to gather your bear­ings, but it may even help you dis­cover fun new restau­rants you oth­er­wise wouldn’t have no­ticed – even though they’re only a few steps away.

2. Smart text se­lec­tion

Back when I was a stu­dent, I of­ten found my­self want­ing to eas­ily copy text from books, and plug that ma­te­rial into re­search pa­pers as ex­cerpts. It seems as though I was sim­ply born too late.

To wit: one of Google Lens’ best new fea­tures lets you se­lect and ren­der text sim­ply by aim­ing your cam­era at it, al­most as if you’d used your mouse to se­lect it on a reg­u­lar mon­i­tor. Pre­sum­ably – ac­count­ing for pos­si­ble prob­lems with line breaks and spac­ing – you then sim­ply paste the text into a text mes­sage or doc­u­ment.

If this pans out as demon­strated, it’s go­ing to save so much time. For ex­am­ple, you could use Lens to

cap­ture the in­gre­di­ents from a cook­book, and then send them via text to a friend buy­ing gro­ceries at the store. Or if you’re read­ing a menu writ­ten en­tirely in French, you could use Lens to get the pre­cise def­i­ni­tion for ris de veau, along with a photo of what the dish looks like as well as a de­scrip­tion of its in­gre­di­ents. This is in­for­ma­tion you need to know.

Granted, in some sit­u­a­tions Google Lens tech­ni­cally adds an ex­tra step since many of us are used to sim­ply send­ing pho­tos of printed text to friends any­way. But I could cer­tainly see Lens be­ing un­be­liev­ably use­ful for re­search cases, in­ter­na­tional travel, and many other sce­nar­ios.

3. Style Match

I have a lamp be­side my bed that I love, but I’ve had a rough time find­ing a match­ing lamp for the other

night­stand. Thanks to Google Lens’ Style Match fea­ture, that may no longer be a prob­lem.

With Style Match, you sim­ply aim your cam­era at an item and it shows you sug­ges­tions for other items that look just like it. In one of the ex­am­ples shown on stage, look­ing at a lamp with an in­tri­cate base brings up a Shop­ping search for ‘Lamp’, and the images Google de­liv­ers show dif­fer­ent lamps with sim­i­larly in­tri­cate bases along with prices. And they all look quite sim­i­lar to the lamp that started that search.

Google in­tro­duced a sim­i­lar fea­ture for reg­u­lar Google Im­age Search last year, but be­ing able to see re­sults like this in real time through a cam­era app makes it sig­nif­i­cantly more use­ful.

4. Real-time search re­sults

As Google Lens works at the mo­ment, you have to specif­i­cally choose an item on the dis­play and wait for Google to bring up search re­sults for you. But the up­dated Lens will give you search re­sults re­lated to ob­jects you’re look­ing at in real time. That means that if I’m stand­ing on West­min­ster bridge in Lon­don, I can look over at the Houses of Par­lia­ment to the left and get in­for­ma­tion about its his­tory in one sec­ond, and then I can pan over to the other side of the river and get sim­i­lar in­for­ma­tion about the Lon­don Eye. It’s go­ing to make solo tours much more fun.

And that’s not all, thanks to im­prove­ments in ma­chine learn­ing. If you’re aim­ing your cam­era lens at a con­cert poster, Google can start play­ing a mu­sic video by the fea­tured artist. It’s tak­ing WYSIWYG to a whole new level.

5. Sup­port for third-party cam­era apps

Google Lens was orig­i­nally only avail­able for the Pixel phones, but ear­lier this year Google ex­tended sup­port to all An­droid phones through the Pho­tos app and Google As­sis­tant. Soon, though, own­ers of some An­droid smart­phones made by com­pa­nies other than Google will get to en­joy the power of Lens straight through their na­tive cam­era apps.

This move will ex­tend to de­fault third-party cam­era apps from Sony Mo­bile, HMD/Nokia, LGE, Xiaomi, HMD/Nokia, Trans­sion, TCL, OnePlus, BQ, and Asus. (Sam­sung and Huawei al­ready have their own AI cam­era fea­tures in their apps.) Here’s to hop­ing it works well with all of them. Google Lens is an in­cred­i­ble ser­vice, and mak­ing it more eas­ily avail­able to ev­ery­one is a step in the right direc­tion for a bet­ter In­ter­net.

You can even choose which spe­cific text you want to se­lect

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