Google Lens, which was announced in Google I/O 2017 as the spiritual successor to Google Goggles, is a next-gen computer vision platform that classifies real-world objects. With nothing more than a smartphone’s rear camera and a machine learning algorithm, Lens recognizes objects, landmarks, and even text in real time. It’s exclusive to Google’s first-generation and second-generation Pixel devices (though it isn’t impossible to enable Lens in Google Photos for all devices using root), and starting this week, it’s heading to the Google Assistant.
Several Pixel and Pixel 2 users are reporting that the update’s begun in earnest. Two weeks ago, some lucky few spotted Lens in the Google Assistant app, but the rollout didn’t appear to be widespread.
If you’re lucky enough to have gotten Lens, 9to5Google notes that the Google Lens icon will appear in the bottom-right corner of the Assistant user interface (UI) if the preferred input is set to Voice. If Keyboard is the selected method, it’ll appear to the left of the microphone icon.
There’s a brief tutorial when you first launch Lens, which explains what it can do, how it works, and what sort of information it’s sending to Google’s servers. After you tap through the messages, a carousel of four categories — Barcodes, Books & Media, Landmarks, and Text — serve as suggestions of what to try. Snapping a photo is as easy as tapping anywhere in the viewfinder; an icon in the bottom corner pulls up the live camera view, and a flash icon in the top-right corner switches on the flash.
Google Lens has a Share feature that outputs an image to any app, alongside any recognized text. Images taken with Lens appear in general Assistant history alongside the accompanying search result.
Lens in Assistant is set to roll-out in India, the UK, Australia, Canada, and Singapore on devices with English set as the default language. It’s still early days for Lens, as it remains in a “Preview” state. And if you don’t have a Pixel or Pixel 2, you’re out of luck — Google hasn’t said when Lens will come to other devices. Here’s hoping that changes soon.
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