The search functionality in Google Photos is already quite useful as it allows users to search pictures by objects, locations, pets, events or even people. Now, the search giant is making the search even more useful by adding the capability to search Google Photos for text.
Google announced this new addition via a tweet on Thursday. This is Google’s new AI feature for the Lens platform that will search your Google Photos library for a user specified text or phrase. To use this feature, you will have to type the text that you are looking for in the search bar on Google Photos.
So now when you search Google Photos for text, you will see all the photos where that text or phrase physically appears. Google’s AI will recognize the text even if it is small or is at an angle or is in non-standard fonts that is skewed and distorted. Along with the images, the feature works on the screenshots as well. Moreover, it even supports non-Latin characters and non-English searches as well, notes Android Police.
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Along with the search, you will also be able to copy and paste the text onto a document, form or note. Once the feature gives you the image that you are looking for, all you have to do is click the Lens button to copy and paste the text. Both the features – search and copy/paste – use Google’s optical character recognition (OCR) technique.
Wow, @googlephotos has OCR to turn screenshots into copy/paste text!
A. Open google photos and select screenshot
B. Pick “Lens” feature [image 1]
C. Highlight text [image 2]
D. Pick copy/paste [image 2,3]
Nicely done Google team! pic.twitter.com/Um49ika2yT
— ???☕️ (@hunterwalk) August 21, 2019
“Starting this month, we’re rolling out the ability to search your photos by the text in them,” Google said in reply to a tweet from venture capitalist Hunter Walk, who was among the first to notice the new feature. “Once you find the photo you’re looking for, click the Lens button to easily copy and paste text. Take that, impossible wifi password.”
Such capabilities could also mean that the search giant is automatically applying the OCR tech to all your Google Photos. Also, it could be storing the metadata about the text in the photo in some way. Google, however, is still to detail on how the feature actually works.
Nevertheless, this comes as a useful addition from Google. It will come in handy for situations where you save a document, Wi-Fi passwords or anything else by taking a picture of it. This new functionality is for both Android and iOS, and also the web client. Google is currently rolling out the feature, and it is already live on several Android devices and for web users, but no sign of it on iOS yet.
This new feature to search Google Photos for text could be related to a feature talked about at the 2017 I/O developer conference. Back then, CEO Sundar Pichai spoke of a feature that would allow the AI-powered Lens camera to understand the context of an image. Such a feature would mean you can just point your smartphone’s camera at a router’s password sticker, and it will automatically connect you to that network. The software will read the password and automatically understand that you want to connect to a nearby network.
Since 2017 I/O, Google has added several capabilities to Google Lens, such as search Google Photos for menu items, taking out contact information from a business card and saving it in the address book and other OCR-related features.
Google Photos recently breached the one billion user mark. The service, which was spun out from Google+ just four years back, has been growing rapidly because of its frequent updates. Google has continuously been updating the app with features such as video animation, a tool for photographing documents, cropping and more.
Along with the new features, Google also makes sure that all features are available to all users. The search giant finally rolled out face-grouping to Europe after the company first introduced it in some regions in 2015. The feature works by scanning all the photos in the library to create a “model” of each face. This allows it to group similar faces into folders and sub-folders.
Such a feature allows for customized albums. After you enable the feature, you can view the face-grouped photos under the “People Explore” tab. As per Google, the feature even works with pets.
Even before this Google Photos feature, the capability has been available with the release of Google Nest Hub in 2018. The device is capable of matching faces uploaded to Google Photos, and also displaying them on the screen if the album is set as the screensaver.
Many may see such a feature as a privacy concern, but Google assures that “face groups” are visible only to the account holder. Also, one can easily disable the feature. Disabling the feature will also delete all the face models that the feature created on your device. Also, it will remove the face-groups that have already been made.