Forget dancing flowered garlands – Google Lens is AR with real utility. Right now AR (Augmented Reality) is having a moment, and it’s moving beyond rainbow vomit, puppy dog-ears and flowered garlands dancing around your head. Announced last week at Google’s I/O developer conference, Google’s new ‘Lens’ technology lets you employ the power of search utilizing your phone’s camera – moving augmented reality to a place beyond photo filters and bouncing Pokémon.
Ok, Google. So I remember way back to 2010 and a wee project called Google Goggles, which was basically what Google Lens is, but without the AR sophistication of today. Google Goggles was scuttled back in 2014, as it simply didn’t touch enough people (remember Google’s ‘it has to effect a billion people’ rule of thumb). That said, as we all know, AR has come a long way in the past few years. Yes, Snapchat made a huge mark and took itself public (putting flowered garlands on people’s moving heads), but Google is enabling you to point at an actual flower and get enhanced digital information about said flower. Ever wonder what type of flower it is that you’re looking at (when you stop and smell the ???), now Google Lens takes the anonymity away. “With Lens, Google can understand what you’re looking at and help you take action,” CEO Sundar Pichai said on stage last week. “We can give you the right information in a meaningful way.”
Point it at a building, and you get information about that building. Point it at a book, and you get information about the author and reviews. Point it at a restaurant, and viola, it helps to answer the question of whether or not you should eat there – all overlaid on the screen of your phone. Google is even incorporating it into their photos app (yes, it will identify that Roman artifact you snapped whose date and historical importance has long been forgotten), and their new digital assistant (which is big news as it will also be available on the Apple iPhone). Google says, “With Google Lens, your smartphone camera won’t just see what you see, but will understand what you see to help you take action.”
Why is this important? Because monolithic players are stepping up big into the AR space and that means more information at our fingertips. You know Facebook (Instagram), Snapchat and Microsoft all have plans to move beyond the humble filter. In the many leaks surrounding the upcoming 10th anniversary iPhone, AR is one of the features they say will be baked right in. After all, we are a visual species, so accessing and augmenting the world’s information visually with AI computer vision “to get stuff done,” just makes sense.
Michael Chase, CMO
St. Joseph Communications
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