The new feature from Google should arrive in the coming months

By Mike Pomranz
Updated May 18, 2017
google lens
Credit: Courtesy of Google

If you’re wandering the streets looking for somewhere to eat, you already have quite a few options. Most restaurants post their menu in the window. Or if you happen to be in a neighborhood like New York’s like Little Italy, an actual person might even try to coax you to come inside. Meanwhile, the risk averse can always use their smartphone to fire up an app like Yelp to get reviews. But if the thought of all that typing is giving you a headache (and obviously it should), Google wants you to know they’ve come up with a solution: Google Lens – a feature that will tell you everything you need to know about a restaurant (as well as many other things out in the world) just by pointing your camera at it.

Announced yesterday at the annual Google IO developer conference, Google Lens is essentially an advanced take on reverse image searching (similar in many ways to the current Google Goggles app) – meaning, as Google explained, you can point your camera at a flower to find out what kind it is or at a router’s network and password label to connect to Wi-Fi. But our aforementioned hungry street wanderer would probably be most interested in using Google Lens to quickly access all of a restaurant’s Google Maps information, including things like menu info, hours and reviews.

If you’re still not quite catching on, Google tweeted out the GIF below which, unlike a non-animated picture, is worth way more than 1,000 words.

If the feature truly works the way it does in that GIF, it’s pretty astounding – despite the fact that if you need artificial intelligence to tell you what’s going on at a place called The Meatball Shop, humans are in trouble. Interestingly, according to Wired, Google Lens will not be a standalone app, but will eventually be integrated into all sorts of Google products. The feature will first be added into Google Photos (where it can dig through your existing library) and then Google Assistant.

Though no release date appears to be set in stone, TechRadar suggests Lens will arrive “in the coming months.” Until then, you’re stuck typing in your restaurant searches like its 2016.