“What sort of flower is that?” you wonder. Imagine being able to point your phone at the flower and get your answer. That’s just part of the magic behind Google Lens.

You see a product in a store. Open Google Lens, aim the phone at the product and tap a button. Instantly, you see information about that product and other similar ones. It’s like performing a Google search. Only instead of entering a search term, you’re using an image to search.

Want to copy some text from a magazine? With Google Lens, point your phone at the text, highlight the portion of interest, and let Google Lens copy the text and send that text to your computer. Think of it as your ability to “copy and paste” from the environment.

As a final example, suppose you’re in a foreign country and aren’t fluent in the native language. You know how helpful Google Translate can be. Read my thoughts on that subject as my wife and I were preparing for a trip to France. See a sign that looks important and you need a quick translation? Open Google Lens and point the phone at the sign. Watch the translation that appears before your eyes.

So how do I get Google Lens?

If you have an Android phone, you likely already have it. Search your apps. If you don’t see it, it’s a free download from the Google Play Store.

Suppose you have an iPhone or iPad. Can you use Google Lens? The answer is yes. But, you won’t find it in the Apple App Store. Instead, look for the Google app. It includes a number of services. Google Lens is one of them.

Why tell us about it now?

Google Lens has been available since October 2017. So, what makes it newsworthy now? My Android phone’s home screen has a search bar. I’ve always been able to enter text in it to perform a Google search. In addition, the search bar has a little microphone icon. Tapping on it allows me to speak my search terms.

A few weeks ago, I looked at the search bar and there was a second icon, one that resembled a camera. That’s Google Lens. Our friends at Google had taken it and put it front and center. Many people would have no idea what it is or what to do with it. Searching the environment with Google Lens suddenly becomes as easy as performing a Google search.

Here is an extended tutorial…

After this post appeared, I ran across an outstanding video created by Lisa Lousie Cooke. Her specialty is genealogy and granted permission for me to embed the video. Regardless of your interest, you will find specific information to help you use Google Lens. You can find her entire YouTube channel here.

Make it your own.

Now that you know about Google Lens, try it out. Find it on your phone and download it if you don’t have it. Go outside, open the app and point it at a plant or a tree, or the neighbor’s dog.

At first, it’s a novelty. And like anything else, a little practice makes it easy to use. Soon, you’ll start to realize just how significant this little app can be.

I remember the days before we had “copy and paste.” When that feature became available, it took the drudgery out of manually typing text that already existed somewhere else. Yet, for all these years, if the text wasn’t already on your computer, you had your work cut out for you.

The best way to use make a piece of software part your “system” is to practice with it before you need it. So, my challenge to you is to open Google Lens and point the phone at a page in the book. See if you can send the printed text to your computer where you can easily “paste” the text into a document. When a real-life need presents itself, you’ll be ready with Google Lens.

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