Less than a decade ago, Google announced it would launch the Google Glass. These looked like an ordinary pair of spectacles, except they had augmented reality built into them. By using a small camera attached to its frame, the user could use it to ‘scan’ any object in their field of vision and have relevant information displayed on their glasses.
For the wearer, the information would appear, as if on a virtual screen, at some distance away from his or her eyes. The experience was akin to how heads-up displays or HUDs show vital stats in many new cars these days.
Glass was its predecessor
However, even with the backing of a behemoth like Google, the Glass–as it later came to be known–died a premature death. Various accounts suggest it was a marketing failure, some maintained the device did not specify what its intended uses could be, and then, there were also concerns over privacy.
Certain businesses, such as restaurants, banned Glass users since it was easy for a wearer to be snapping pictures of people and possibly, other less desirable elements. It is inappropriate, of course, to be taking pictures of people without their consent. What could also have worked against this wearable device was its high sticker price — touching almost USD1500 or about INR90,000 in 2012-13 exchange rates.
But Glass gave way to its more practical version called Google Lens, or simply, Lens. This app–launched in October 2017–comes preloaded now on most Android phones. However, not many users will have used this nifty technology aid. It packs in all the power that Glass offered, but without any costs whatsoever — just as most Google services are. Personally, I use Lens often, not only to research a particular object that catches my attention, but also as a teaching aid.
What is it used for?
The following are three ways to use Lens to make certain tasks easier.
Identifying plants. An initial passing interest in plants has now grown to a strong passion, thanks largely to Lens. You need only open the app and use it as you would your camera. Point your phone camera lens at a leaf, and more often than not, it brings up several related results. The search results then allow you to dive deeper and find out more about that particular species — be it their origin, their time of flowering, or where to source seeds from. My six-year-old has also tried it on various spiders and insects, and Lens usually throws up interesting information.
Taking notes. As a writer, my work entails taking notes from various publications and resources. Sometimes, these could well be old type-written pages. And carrying a notebook and pen is passé. Lens does the job perfectly of reading text from other mediums and converting it into a format that can then be used on common writing platforms such as MS Word or Google Docs.
Checking prices. If a particular object catches your fancy, Lens can be used to compare its specifications against comparable products. More importantly, one can compare its price across e-commerce platforms.
How do I find it?
To find out if your phone has Lens, simply swipe up on your home screen. On an Android phone, this will bring up all apps on your phone. A search bar will also appear on the top. In this search bar, type Lens. Chances are it is already preloaded on your device. In the rare event you do not find it, the next step would be to download it from the Play Store.
Using the app is intuitive and similar to using your phone’s camera. You will find white dots blinking haphazardly over the object of interest, when you point your phone camera towards it. In case you find something interesting in an area where there is poor data connectivity, take a picture of it and store in Google Photos. Later, once you have data access, you can use Lens on a still photo as well.
We suggest you give Lens a try. Chances are you will be hooked, especially so if you are fond of plants and gardening. Happy exploring!