Google Lens: Six things we can’t wait to try out

Google’s I/O was heavy on AI and ma­chine learn­ing, and the best in­ter­sec­tion of the two is Google Lens, writes MICHAEL SI­MON

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Google Lens looks fresh and ex­cit­ing, though we’ve seen hints of this tech­nol­ogy be­fore. Google Gog­gles might not have been men­tioned dur­ing the I/O key­note, but its spirit was most cer­tainly present at I/O. Re­leased seven years ago when AI and AR were still in their in­fancy, Gog­gles was an app that let you iden­tify places, scan bar­codes, and search for prices by snap­ping a photo of the thing you were look­ing at.

Google Lens, which was an­nounced dur­ing the very first min­utes of I/O, is essen­tially a su­per­charged ver­sion of Google Gog­gles. Built into Assistant and Pho­tos, the new ma­chine learn­ing AI prom­ises to de­code the world around us by using Google’s AR and neu­ral net­works to scan im­ages and pull out rel­e­vant bits of data. Here are the six things we’re most ex­cited to try out.


Google Trans­late is al­ready one of our go-to tools when try­ing to read text in a dif­fer­ent lan­guage, but Google Lens takes it out of the Trans­late app and puts it right into Pho­tos. To trans­late some­thing, you need only snap a pic­ture of it and call on Google Lens’ smarts. This ap­proach makes using Trans­late’s tech­nol­ogy even sim­pler, and we’ll be much more likely to re­mem­ber to use it in a pinch.


It’s not hard to find in­ter­est­ing spots when vis­it­ing a new city, but with Google Lens, dis­cov­er­ing hid­den gems in our own town be­comes a lot eas­ier. Just point your cam­era at a place you’re in­ter­ested in, and Google Lens will scan it. Then, in real time as you look through the viewfinder, you’ll be able to see what it is, what it sells, and what peo­ple think about it. The process is far sim­pler than get­ting the name, typ­ing it into Google, and scanning through the re­sults.


This area is where you can see just how much Google Lens has im­proved on Google Gog­gles. Google Lens lets you snap a pic­ture of just about any­thing, and then it will tell you ev­ery­thing you need to know about it – dur­ing the key­note, Sun­dar Pichai demon­strated this fea­ture by iden­ti­fy­ing a com­mon lily. We’ll need to

try it our­selves to con­firm its ac­cu­racy, but our phones could pos­si­bly be­come the great­est en­cy­clo­pe­dia ever, teach­ing us about arts, ar­chi­tec­ture, and na­ture with­out re­quir­ing a dive into a search hole.


We’ve all been in the sit­u­a­tion where we’re at a friend’s house and we need to con­nect to their router, ex­cept they don’t know the pass­word. So we need to crawl un­der a desk, flip over the router to find the la­bel, type each char­ac­ter, and, 10 min­utes later, fi­nally con­nect. Google Lens does all that work for you. You’ll only need to snap a pic­ture of the pass­word la­bel on the router and it will au­to­mat­i­cally con­nect.


Buy­ing tick­ets to shows and movies on our phones is al­ready pretty ef­fort­less, but Google Lens wants to

make it a com­plete breeze. If you walk down a street and see a mar­quee that shows a band that’s play­ing, Google Lens will spring to life as soon as you snap a pic­ture. You can lis­ten to sam­ple songs, add the date to your cal­en­dar, and, of course, buy tick­ets. Pre­sum­ably, it will work just as well with movies and other events – we can’t wait to take a photo of a movie poster and then see show times and trail­ers.


The key­note didn’t men­tion any­thing spe­cific about buy­ing stuff using Google Lens, but we can’t help but won­der about its po­ten­tial as a shop­ping assistant. We’ve al­ready seen some­thing sim­i­lar with Bixby on the Galaxy S8, but out­side of books, it’s not very help­ful. If Google can per­fect the sys­tem so it brings up shop­ping re­sults for any­thing we scan, it could be the killer use case for Google Lens.



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