Well, what do you know? Using your phone’s camera is going to even more fulfilling soon. No. We are not talking about new selfie technology that will make you look prettier (although that can be deemed fulfilling too); it is a lot more than that. It is a new vision-based computing capability found in a new initiative called Google Lens. Notice how Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai never refer Google Lens to as a product, but an initiative at this year’s Google I/O? And that kind of make me skeptical, but more on why later. Now, on why Google Lens is awesome.
Pichai described it as “a set of vision-based computing capabilities that will understand what you are looking at and help you take action based on the information.” You fire up your Google Lens in your Google Assistant and point at the object of interest, and Google Assistant will feed you information about the object. For example, you can know the name of the species of a flower you come across, or information about the shops, simply by invoking Google Lens.
But that’s not the most impressive aspect about this scarily powerful capability; it is how you can point your phone’s camera at a WiFI router’s info label and it will automatically pick up the WiFi router ID and password, and you can connect right there and then. Exciting and scary at the same time, really. Machines are getting smarter, aren’t they? Google Lens is also good for photos in your in phone too. It is capable of identifying buildings, art pieces, and more, offering you details like location, directions and opening hours in the case of a business or attraction, or furnish you with details about a particular artwork and the artist information.
Equally amazingly is, you can actually call a business by tapping on the number of a screenshot taken (or sent to you by your friends). Ok, now, on why I am skeptical. Apart from a few ‘stable’ products, Google seems to be “pull-the-plug happy” and over the years many products have came and went. I mean, they just died because nobody is doing anything about them and not calling it a product is like inviting a vote of no confidence. I am not saying Google Lens will flop, but it is an initiative, which means, it is something not tangible, if you will.
It latches on to a main product which in this case, Google Assistant, and it runs the risk of being abruptly removed even you enjoy using it. I have been with Android since 2.X and I have seen some pretty awesome features which I wished it was still available to me. In fact, Google Lens reminds me very much of a previous AR endeavor (before it went on to live as part of the then Google Glass). Though, I can’t recall what it was called. I used to go around pointing my HTC Nexus device at wine labels and stuff to get info, and I can even get nearby places of interest just by pointing the camera at a particular heading. Then, all the sudden. The feature went missing.
Whatever happened result in me having trust issues with Google’s ‘novelty products’. I appreciate all the convenience many Google products has brought about, but I don’t appreciate sudden pulling of plugs. I will be looking forward to have some fun with Google Lens, nonetheless.
In another related news. Ok. Maybe not quite related. Google has also announced plan to make its own standalone VR headsets which will leverage on Tango-based technology called WorldSense. Like Nexus devices, Google will work with companies to realize the headsets, and in this instance, it will be HTC and Lenovo. These headsets, which will be available end of this year, will, naturally, run on Google Daydream mobile VR ecosystem introduced last year.
You can get the gist of what WorldSense is about in the video below: