Google Lens uses your phone’s camera to provide you with search results without typing or speaking. For now, it is particularly useful for immediate price comparison in stores and storing information. Google Lens has gone live or is about to, on Pixel phones in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, India, and Singapore (in English).
Visual Search: Google Lens
What it Can Do
Google Lens can read text like business cards (and turning them into contacts in your phone) and newspapers, identify some buildings and landmarks, provide information on artwork, books, and movies (from a poster), as well as scan barcodes. Most of the time it can identify products, as well as capture and keep (in Google Keep) handwritten notes, though it doesn’t turn them into text.
As a barcode scanner, it’s quite handy and works nearly every time. No barcode? No problem, it can usually correctly identify products from their packaging or labels.
What it fails to Do
Google Lens struggles the most with buildings and products that don’t have any labeling on them. One reviewer found that it is unable to identify an Apple laptop as a computer and it misidentified Google Home as “aluminum foil” — rather embarrassing, considering it is a Google product. They also found that many well-known buildings in New York City failed to be identified. However, it does very well identifying famous works of art and books, perhaps because they have a large pool of data in Google to reference.
When Lens gets it wrong it asks you to let it know; and when it’s uncertain but you affirm its guess, you can get good information.
The Future of Visual Search Marketing
If we assume that Google will continue to invest and improve Lens, this could become the most valuable tool in search — more adaptable than traditional mobile or voice search. Businesses could create custom pages to take users to after capturing a picture, much like a QR code, or become a Snapchat-esque way to store your information. It will be customizable and able to recommend places and products as it learns your interests. Marketing agencies could put up interactive ads, or banners. For example, if a person holds their camera up to a store, Lens will read the sign, pull up all locations and specials or coupons available, as well as recommended products (great for holiday shopping!) However, this is all speculation, we’ll just have to wait and see what Google does to keep improving Lens.