EXPLAINER: What is Google Lens and how to use it?

Google Lens is a technology that can identify objects and give relevant feedback on them. Using Lens, you can copy contact details from a business card, translate foreign text, shop for items, even name the breed of a random dog on the road.

EXPLAINER: What is Google Lens and how to use it?
Google lens

Google Lens is an image detection software powered by advanced deep machine learning routines.

What this means is that Google Lens (AKA Lens) is able to identify an image and then give you relevant information on it. This information could be the specie of a roadside plant, the time a particular business place opens, list of online stores selling an item, and translation of a text. Not only is this product fun to use, but it also comes in handy.

At first it launched in 2017 as an exclusive feature in the Pixel 2 phone. But it has now been fully extended to all devices. It is currently available via four major channels—the camera app of Pixel phones, Google Assistant, Google Photos and as a standalone app on android play and iOS app store.

Image from Digital Trends

When using Lens, the first step is to provide an image either by making use of your camera or uploading one from your device. There are five features to choose from and each of them has a specific function.

  • Translate: This feature converts the detected text to any of the 104 languages available on Google Lens, including Yoruba and Igbo. An instance where this may be useful is when reading foreign books or text.
  • Copy text: Once Lens detects a text, you will be given several options based on the selected text. You can either copy it, translate (redirects to the Google translate app), search for the definition, or even get the location on Google Maps if the copied text is an address. You can also save contacts from a business card or copy texts from another screen.
  • Shopping: A white dot appears once the camera detects an object or a bar-code. It then returns similar images, including links to online stores where they are sold.
  • Dining: If eating at a restaurant for the first time and you are not sure what to try, Google lens can decide for you. All you have to do is point your camera at the menu and it automatically selects the most ordered meals. It can also provide reviews and recipe videos when a single meal is selected. A recent addition is the ability to calculate tips and help split your bill evenly if you are "going dutch" with a group.
  • Auto-detect: This is most useful in instances where you can not effectively describe what you are looking for to your search engine. Uploading the image of a Poodle to Lens is likely to give you a more specific result than searching for "furry dog breeds" on Google Search.

It is important to note that the accuracy of the result is heavily dependent on how clear the image or text is.

Recent reports state that Google is working on adding an educational feature to help school students with their home-work. Also, there are plans to enable the translation of texts on Lens without an internet connection. While the details of these projected updates are not clear, we look forward to the future possibilities of Lens.

Get weekly insights on tech startups and VC in Africa