As part of this, there’s been a strong focus on phones and the mobile experience, as there has been for the past few years.
One of the key features of any phone is the camera – as Snap put it in their IPO documents, the camera is the starting point for a user on mobile, just as the cursor or search box was for desktop.
To make search more central to the mobile experience, one of the biggest technology advances showcased was the new visual recognition capabilities that the tech giant is building into Google Lens, which identifies objects in the world around you, driven by its strong machine learning and AI capabilities.
This is a very important update from Google with lots of far reaching and possibly life-changing implications for consumers and brands alike.
Lens will effectively turn your camera into a real-world search device; focus on anything and it will tell you what it is, and provide plenty of information about it.
Anyone who tested Google’s image recognition app Goggles a few years ago, will remember that it wasn’t capable of recognising objects with distinctive shapes, e.g. a MINI. However, it was great when it came to very definite things like books or CD covers.
The new capabilities will allow users to focus on a flower, say, and then tell you what type of flower it is. Scan a card with information on how to connect to a wifi network, and it will connect you.
You can even focus on a shop front, and, because it also knows where you are, it will bring up information about that business, including ratings and reviews. All of this demonstrates that Google’s recent AI focus is now integrating well with search.
When this becomes widely available, I’d argue that it could be as revolutionary for businesses as Google’s text-based Search was when it first launched.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING DISTINCTIVE
One recent trend we have witnessed is online-only companies opening physical sites – for example Amazon’s retail spaces, and a number of brands opening pop-up shops.
Google Lens will make it more important to have a real world, physical presence, as people can now easily connect this to your online identity.
To get the most out of the new technology, brands, especially those with physical locations, will need to:
The technology is off to a great start, but it will still be fallible. When it comes to signage and appearance, having as clear a visual identity as possible will be crucial. This may mean making all shop branches (where relevant) identical, or using very precise colour schemes, both of which will help Google identify that it is you.
Make sure to be listed in maps
Location will work as a backup and confirmation to the image recognition, so it is crucial to make the necessary steps to ensure that Google Maps lists you in every location that you appear, rather than the former occupant of the site.
Manage reviews and user generated content
If people can easily search outside in the street location, then make sure that there is nothing out there to put them off going in. You can’t censor reviews, but you can respond to them to give your point of view, and you can also try to ensure that reviews from happy customers outnumber ones from unhappy ones.
Make recognisable items
Lens will also be important for identifying and researching items when on the move, so make sure that products are easy to identify, meaning distinctive design and colour schemes. This could have big implications for many sectors including luxury (shoes and bags), consumer electronics (gadgets) and toys.
Finally, visual recognition through Lens could bring the benefits we hoped for, but never saw, from QR codes. QR codes give very precise instructions to phones in terms of sites to visit or actions to perform, but have never really caught on in the West.
Visual recognition could cut out the middle man, and run every product into a precise set of instructions for the camera to act on.
Further implications of the technology in business settings are also fascinating; for example, you could have a supermarket till where the camera recognises the products and adds up the prices, with no need to scan the bar code.
Lens has the power to be one of the most significant things Google has developed in years, and also demonstrates how strong its AI capabilities are.
Needless to say, the future just came a bit closer.