Google Lens Turns Smartphone Cameras Into Search Devices

May 18, 2017 - 2 minutes read

Last year, Google CEO Sundar Pichai proclaimed, “We’re evolving in computing from a ‘mobile-first’ to an ‘AI-first’ world.” Yesterday, during the keynote address of the Google I/O developer conference, the company showed that it’s putting it’s money where it’s mouth is. Pichai made it clear Google’s goal is to incorporate AI technology into all of its products in the coming years. The company proved its commitment to this future with its initiative, which will be an invaluable resource for the AI community. But perhaps the most immediately exciting announcement for Android app developers was the Google Lens, a revolutionary blend of AI, computer vision, and AR that will quite literally change how we see the world.

Facebook has said that it wants to turn the camera into the new keyboard; Google is taking it a step further, turning the camera into an instantaneous search device. Google Lens transforms your smartphone camera into an all-seeing, all-knowing eye of sorts. If you point your phone at a flower, Lens can identify that flower; if you point your phone at a business, Lens will provide you with information about that business. Users will be able to incorporate Lens in interactions with Google Assistant (which is now available on the iPhone too — look out, Siri!). It can translate foreign text (“What does this say?”), or take information from a concert marquee or poster and pull up tickets and add the event to your calendar. The practical applications of Lens make it very exciting for app developers.

Lens leverages the enormous amount of information Google has amassed about the world around us and gives us access to it through our cameras. Bay Area Android app developers have no doubt noticed the trend away from text and toward photos. This technology is only going to accelerate that push. Why type in a search when you can just take aim with your phone? We are entering an age where smartphone cameras don’t just take photos — they give us answers.

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