Use your smartphone camera in new ways with this versatile app

One of the most innovative and useful apps is also one of the least known apps: Google Lens. It works with your phone's camera (or existing photos) and can be combined with Google's extensive experience in artificial intelligence to act as a visual search tool that can help you explore the world around you.

It can recognize plants and animals, provide you with information about the building where you are standing, translate text, and even tell you popular dishes on the menu.

The app can be used on Android alone or as part of Google Camera (tap more, then tap the lens on the shutter screen). If you're using an iPhone, you'll find "Lens" in the Google app for iOS: click the "Lens" button (looks like a camera lens) in the search box to launch it.

Lens also works with existing pictures in Google Photos for Android and iOS-after opening the picture, tap the square Lens icon at the bottom of the screen.

Translate text

Don't let yourself be confused by language that you don't understand, such as: align the "lens" with the text, make sure it is highlighted correctly (adjust with blue markers if necessary), and click "Translate.

The next screen will show the original text and its translation-don't worry, Lens will automatically recognize the language you are viewing. The application lets you save translations for later use or copy them to your keyboard.

Add contacts, phone numbers and events

Lens excels at recognizing text and determining if you are looking for contact details, phone numbers, time and date, or something else. For example, show a business card to the application and you will be prompted to add it to your contact list on your phone.

Whenever you find a phone number on your business card or elsewhere, Lens gives you the option to call or text directly. You don't have to enter all numbers manually, which means you won't mistake any numbers.

This also extends to adding calendar events: if Lens sees the date, it will give you the option to create a calendar event. So next time you get some show tickets, use Lens to make sure you don't forget when the show starts.

Find out what's in front of you

At the core of Lens is a visual search engine, which means it will try to recognize everything you point to. Plants and animals are two great examples-try Lens to see if it's right, whether you're looking at roses in the garden or elephants in the safari.

As long as they are well known, it can also be used for buildings and landmarks (in other words, there should be a lot of images about them on Google). If Lens can identify what you are looking for, you can check the place ’s opening hours or call (if available) and get information from Google Maps.

You can show the details of a movie or book by pointing Lens to a poster or cover, or you can search for a specific product by searching for Lens-this is very useful if you see good products in the store and want to know the online price.

This technique is also applicable to art and sculpture. Once you find a match, you will get one or two links. For painting, you might see a shortcut to the Wikipedia entry for the piece. However, it cannot be applied to everything because it currently does not recognize celebrity photos.

If Lens can't figure out what's in the phone's camera frame (or the photos that have been taken), it will default to a gallery of similar images that can be found on the web. This may come in handy if you see something in the real world that you want to use as inspiration for your new phone wallpaper.

scan document

If you have paper documents, you need to digitize them quickly, and Lens can help you here. However, at the moment, it only works with Google Camera for Android-you need to be in normal camera mode to work properly.

To scan, make sure the page and its edges are clearly visible, and the lens should pop up and prompt you if you want to scan the document. You can crop it as needed before scanning, or you can copy and translate text in a document at the same time.

The translated text is not superimposed in the final scan, but you can copy it to the clipboard as needed. The scanned document itself is saved as a PDF, and you can do anything later.

View restaurant menu

One of the smartest tricks Lens can do is tell you the hot dishes on the restaurant menu. It feels like magic, but what actually happens is that Lens is reading the menu text and cross-referencing it with reviews and photos added to Google Maps based on where you are.

If many Google Maps users have been keen on burgers and posting photos of them, Lens can use this information and tell you that burgers are a popular dish. It can even extract photos and details of your food (such as its ingredients).

All of this depends on Lens knowing enough about where you are, so it doesn't work for every little pizzeria you walk to. However, if you are in a busy town, Lens may be useful when deciding what to eat-just hold the menu and point Lens to the menu.

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