Google Makes AR Search Tool Available for All New Phones

March 6, 2018 - 4 minutes read

AR app developer

Tired of having to type in keywords every time you want to search for something? Well, you’re in luck! Google is releasing their augmented reality (AR) search tool, Lens, for practically all newer phone models.

The Hindered Future of Search

Last May, Google released what many were calling “the future of search.” Any time you were out and about and had a curiosity about something you saw, typing was no longer a necessity. With Google Lens, you simply point your phone camera at any number of objects to learn more about them.

Snap a picture of a book and you’d instantly know the author, publication date, where you can buy it, and its reviews. Point your phone camera at a painting and Lens would tell you the artist, as well as the particular piece’s significance in art history. Even if you didn’t know what you were exactly looking at, Google Lens could help you find out.

A combination of savvy AR development, image recognition, and machine learning makes Google Lens possible. This revolutionary search tool isn’t exactly an app; it’s a capability that Google integrates into other apps like Google Photos and Google Assistant. It was expected to disrupt the act of searching as we know it, but Google made one big misstep in its release: it made Google Lens exclusive to Google Pixel, the San Francisco Development titan’s flagship phone.

AR to Broaden Your Horizons

Google shipped 3.9 million Pixel phones last year. For comparison, Apple sold 77.3 million iPhones just in the last quarter. With such a small imprint, it’s no wonder that Google Lens didn’t exactly change how we search for things right away. But the tech giant is looking to fix its fumble by making Lens available to as many devices as possible. That includes Android phones from Samsung, LG, Motorola, Huawei, Sony, as well as Android’s main competitor, the iPhone.

Lens won’t be available for every phone; earlier models will be restricted due to their older operating systems and camera capabilities. For now, the AR search tool will also only be available in English and a handful of countries like the U.S., Canada, the U.K., France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and a few others.

Doubling Down on AR

In recent months, the mobile AR marketplace has become a fierce battleground, with every big tech company releasing tools for developers to make original AR content for their platform. Similarly, Google recently released ARCore, their streamlined solution to build AR Android apps.

Google Lens represents one of the biggest investments that the tech titan has made in AR. As such, the company likes to think it is more than the usual uses that people associate with the technology, like quirky Snapchat filters or games like Pokemon Go. “The camera is a medium for understanding what the world is,” says Aparna Chennapragada, the head of Google Lens. “It’s an evolution of information, discovery, and search.”

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