Google just added one of its most futuristic features to every Android phone — and it’s coming soon to iPhones (GOOG, GOOGL)

Google IO 2017 Google Lens

  • Google is adding its visual search tool, Lens, to every Android smartphone. 
  • Lens initially launched on all Google Pixel 2 phones last October.
  • The tool acts like a smart magnifying glass. It can identify brands, restaurants, or objects you see in real life, or scan things like business cards or flyers for phone numbers and addresses.
  • Lens is now rolling out to Android devices with Google Photos, and will be coming soon to iOS. 

One of the most futuristic features of the Pixel 2 is making its way to everyone with an Android phone — and soon, it’ll be available on iOS.

Called Google Lens, the feature was a new addition to Google’s latest smartphone, which came out last October. Lens basically works as a visual search engine, using your smartphone’s camera to identify what you see in the real world. Up until now, Lens was only available on the Pixel.

Google announced on its Google Photos Twitter account that Lens is now rolling out to every Android device with Google Photos installed, and would be arriving on iOS devices in the near future. 

Lens basically works like a “smart” magnifying glass. Using your phone’s camera, you can look up things like artwork, landmarks, and flowers by snapping a photo, then using the Lens button in Google Photos. Lens can then identify what it is you’re looking at and pull up relevant information for you to peruse.

But perhaps the coolest thing about Lens is its ability to read. If you take a photo of a business card, Lens can create a new contact with the information printed there. Or, if you photograph something with an address on it, Lens will identify the address and pull up Google Maps directions, saving you from having to type it in. 

Plus, if you take a photo of the network name and password listed on the back of a router, it can automatically connect you to the WiFi:

Google IO 2017 Google Lens

When I first tried Google Lens back in October, I wasn’t overly impressed by its “smarts.” It couldn’t read handwriting or recognize certain brands, although it did a great job at finding addresses and reading labels. 

But Lens will only improve over time as more people use it, and it’s still one of the more futuristic technologies Google is working on right now — there are only a handful of other tech companies that have successfully launched some sort of visual search, Pinterest among them. While the technology is still in its infancy, the expectation is that we’ll soon be able to “Shazam” the world around us using our smartphone’s camera. 

You can get Google Lens on your Android device by updating the Google Photos app. If it has rolled out to your device, it will show up as a tiny magnifying glass at the bottom of your screen when you take a photo or open one you’ve already taken. 

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