In 2017, one of Google’s biggest announcements was Google Lens, at the time primarily a feature for the Google-exclusive Pixel phone.
But patience has rewarded us, for Google announced, at I/O 2018, that Google Lens will be coming to a lot more devices, and the app is available to download on Google Play.
So, that’s all well and good, but what it is?
What can Google Lens do?
Google Lens is some clever technology that’s powered by Artificial Intelligence. It uses your phone’s camera and some deep machine learning to detect objects, understand what they are, and give you some suggestions based on what it’s seeing.
It’s like a high-powered version of Google Glass, and although that didn’t really take off, this is the next best thing. So, if you point your phone camera at, say, a flower, then ask Google what you’re looking at, it’ll tell you the answer. But, to go one step further, it’ll also suggest related things that might be helpful, like nearby florists in case you need a bouquet!
If you’re not big into flowers, don’t worry, there’s plenty more Google Lens can do. For example, you know when you go to your mates and you have to get the Wi-Fi password off the back of their router?
With Google Lens, all you need to do is point your camera at the sticker on the router, take a picture, and your phone will automatically connect to the Wi-Fi network. Much easier than trying to figure out if it’s a capital O you’re looking at or a zero.
It can even recognise things like cafes, restaurants and bars, and will give you a pop-up window showing you customer reviews, when it’s open ‘til and any other info you might need to know.
Try pointing it at your hand and it’ll suggest a thumbs-up emoji, which is just a bit of fun but we’re sure you can come up with loads of other things to try it with and see if it can figure out what it is.
Here’s some other things it can do:
Smart Text Selection
If you point the camera at some text, you can highlight that text using Google Lens and then copy it to your phone.
Smart Text Search
That text that you can highlight? You can also do a Google Search for it! So, you can look up that band-name you can barely pronounce, or just find out the definition of any words you’re not sure of.
Clothing and decor search
Say you’re out shopping and you see a cute top or some jeans you like. Point Google Lens at it and it can look for other similar items. It works for home décor too, so you can find the perfect new rug to match the cushions you just bought.
Search around you
Point your camera around you and Google Lens will know things like what types of plants are around, the breed of that cat walking by or any reviews for that new movie poster.
Using Google Photos, Google Lens can identify iconic buildings and landmarks, give you directions for getting there, and let you book tickets if you need to. It’ll give you information about any famous works of art that are inside that museum, and one day it might even be able to figure out why Van Gogh chopped his ear off!
How do I get Google Lens?
For anyone using an Android phone, Google Lens has an app that’s available in the Play Store. You can simply download it and dive straight into all the amazing features on offer.
But, if you don’t have room for yet another app or you don’t want to add another icon to your already cluttered home screen, the good news is there’s other ways to use Google Lens too.
If you use your Google Assistant, in the bottom-right corner you’ll see the Google Lens icon. Just tap it and you get access to all the smart features, so you can easily find out showing times for that film poster or learn more about a venue from looking at the gig information board.
You’ll even get suggestions like songs from any artists it picks up, and it will let you tap to buy tickets for any events through TicketMaster. Then, so you won’t forget about anything, it’ll add the event dates to your calendar to remind you what you’ve booked.
You’ll see the Google Lens icon at the bottom of the screen when you’re browsing through Google Photos, and tapping it will let Google start scanning the picture to come up with those handy suggestions for you.
Some Android phones have also had the Google Lens icon added to the camera app, so it seems no matter what you’re doing on your phone, Google Lens is just a tap away to help you with all those useful suggestions.
Which phones can use Google Lens?
When Google originally announced Google Lens at I/O 2017, they gave a preview of the software before then officially announcing it with the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL. It was launched with the Google Assistant and Google photos on those phones, but more devices have been added to the list now.
The manufacturers with phones that support Google Lens directly through the camera include the likes of LG, Motorola and Xiaomi, but the standalone app that’s now available in the Play Store means anyone with an Android should be able to download it.
Check out our range of Android handsets