We used Google’s visual search app to find bread and furniture – but it failed to recognise a South African national treasure
- Google Lens simplifies online shopping by allowing you to snap photos of an object, then helps you search fo the same thing online.
- Or you can just use it to get more information about something you've encountered.
- We tested the app on random South African items and were pretty impressed – but let us down with a few key objects.
A Google search is great if you know the words to describe what you are looking for. Google Lens, an app the company started rolling out last year, does the same thing visually, for objects you encounter in the real world – with a couple of nice touches that makes things like online shopping much easier.
Google Lens is free from either the Android or Apple's app store for free. Once you have it open, point your phone camera at text of an object, tap at it, and the app will scour the web for you, for stuff like information and prices.
We checked Google Lens out; here's how it did on various items.
A loaf of bread
A quick scan of the packaging provided search results, and took us to the site where we could find the price.
The search was much convenient than having to retype the text on the packaging in a search engine.
A couple of pieces of furniture
A suede sofa caught our eye.
The search results were quite mixed, returning two and three-seater couches and not the chair we’d snapped, but at least it recognised that the chair was fabric rather than leather.
Google Lens did better on an occasional chair we’d liked, returning South African furniture stores that carry items that look like it, with prices.
A Joburg-themed coffee mug.
A colleague’s coffee mug looked so cool we wanted something similar, or a way to personalise our own.
The search returned various local e-retailers that sell unique customised cups.
While checking out the price of a textbook on media law, the app picked up the author’s name instead and gave search results of their academic profile.
A pretty well-known national treasure.
We wanted some more info on the golden rhinoceros of Mapungubwe during a walkabout of an open-air museum in the Johannesburg CBD.
Sadly, the app failed to recognise an near-perfect replica one of SA’s iconic historic objects.
A pair of shoes.
A friend was sporting brown leather ankle boots that we took a strong liking to. We hoped to find similar, if not the same, shoes. Instead we were presented with tap-dancing shoes.
The search results for were spot on.
Overall, the app is very easy to use and makes for a quick search tool, especially when it comes to online shopping, However, it’s ability to identify objects still needs more than a little work.
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