Google is reinventing search itself as it moves past Android and into our crazy future – Business Insider

Google Assistant with Google LensGoogle Assistant with
Google Lens

Google I/O is, far and away, Google’s most important single event
of the year, where CEO Sundar Pichai presents his grand vision
for the company in the year to come. 

So it was a little baffling, at first blush, that Google — a
search company, which makes its money from search advertising —
would spend so much time talking about
Google Photos
, its photo-sharing service, and camera-related
apps in general. 

At the same time, it makes perfect sense, in its own way. It’s
the same old Google, adapted for a world where cameras rule over

Way back in 2009, it launched an
app called Google Goggles
that let you snap a picture of,
say, a book, and search for it online. On Wednesday the
company brought the idea back with
Google Lens
, an evolved version of the concept. Google Lens
will make its debut as a feature in Google Photos within the
next few months, and come to the Google Assistant digital
assistant by the end of the year. 

And while Google Lens might just seem like a bunch of
clever, questionably useful new tricks for your camera, it hints
at so much more.

Because while Android is the most popular operating system in the
world right now, new technologies like voice assistants, virtual
reality, and even smart appliances
threaten the dominance of the smartphone
. What we’re seeing
with Google Lens is the search giant grooming Assistant to be its
failsafe in the event that the world moves on from the handheld

Computer vision

Lens is debuting as we consumers are increasingly using cameras
and our voices to interact with our devices. Where you used
to type things out on a keyboard, you might now just snap a

If you’ve ever taken a picture of a product label at the grocery
store to help you remember it later, or sent
a significant other a picture of a dropped mug so
you didn’t have to explain it in writing, you’re already on the
journey to this next big phase of computing. 

With Google Lens system, you’ll be able to get more information
on a band that’s playing a particular concert venue or watch
their music videos by just taking a picture of the band’s name on
the venue’s marquee. You’ll also be able to automatically connect
your phone to a WiFi network by simply snapping a picture of
the password.

Lens — and its underlying technology — could turn your photos
into an incredibly valuable source of data for Google. Every
photo you’ve taken, or will take, becomes something that Google
can use to figure out where you were, who you were with, what
brands you were wearing, what restaurant you were at, and so

Beyond text

It’s tempting to think of services like Google Assistant, Amazon
Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Microsoft Cortana as just voice
assistants that reside on particular devices like smartphones or
smart speakers. But they’re really just the most obvious parts of
the huge, nebulous artificially intelligent systems that underly
them, as
the Verge
points out. And we’re only just starting to figure
out where and how those systems will fit into our lives and how
we’ll interact with them.

You can interact with Google Assistant by typing commands on your
smartphone keyboard, by talking to your Google Home smart speaker
or by snapping a picture on your phone. You can choose the
way you interact with the data in Google Assistant, the same way
that every faucet in your home connects to the same water

Google IO 2017 Google LensGoogle LensGoogle

When Google rolls Assistant out to cars, as is expected, it will
be the same thing as what’s on your phone. When Assistant gets
integrated  — as it will — into fridges and lamps and
thermostats and toasters, it will be the same Assistant. It’s
will be available on all of them, delivering the data you need to
the closest device available.

So if the smartphone dies, as
expect it will, Google Assistant stands to actually
outlive Android. It’s a system for processing your data and
delivering useful results that doesn’t actually rely on any
device. Whatever comes next, Google can have Assistant
send answers through it, whether it has speakers,
overlays images on the real world, or still uses an
old-fashioned screen. 

Google still has some things to work on when it comes to its
intelligent assistant. Most notably, the vast majority of its
revenue still comes from search advertising, but right now, there
are no ads in Assistant. So Google has to figure out the business
model if and as consumers move from its traditional text-based
search page to searching with Assistant. 

But if Google’s mission is to keep users loyal through these
turbulent technological times, Assistant is right on

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