Among the vast array of products that Google has built over the years, perhaps one of the most used by daily customers is the Google application for mobile phones. The company dedicates significant resources to this application both to improve its quality and to continuously expand its features, given the wide impact and everyday use factor that the app has.
Housed in this app is Google Lens, a vision-based tool that allows users to search what they see via their smartphones. Essentially, Lens compares an uploaded or captured image to other images throughout the internet (akin to traditional Google search), and ranks the results based on their similarities to the user’s image. This provides the user with context as to what they are looking at (e.g., such as identifying an unknown plant during a walk), and takes it one step further, providing recommendations and second order information about a specific object. For example, “if an image contains a specific product – like jeans or sneakers – Lens may return results providing more information about that product, or shopping results for the product. Lens may also rely on available signals, like the product’s user ratings, to return such results. In another example, if Lens recognizes a barcode or text in an image (for example, a product name or a book title), Lens may return a Google Search results page for the object.”
Earlier this week, Google announced an incredible new feature for Google Lens: the ability to search skin conditions. Essentially, the application now enables users to take a picture of their skin (e.g., a rash or discoloration) and matches it with the most relevant results, providing insight into the condition.
As explained in a blog post by Lou Wang, Senior Director of Product Management for Google Search, “Describing an odd mole or rash on your skin can be hard to do with words alone. Fortunately, there’s a new way Lens can help, with the ability to search skin conditions that are visually similar to what you see on your skin. Just take a picture or upload a photo through Lens, and you’ll find visual matches to inform your search. This feature also works if you’re not sure how to describe something else on your body, like a bump on your lip, a line on your nails or hair loss on your head.”
The potential behind this technology is astounding. The field of dermatology is incredibly vast within the realm of healthcare, and has long been touted as an arena where image based search tools can add significant value. Notably, Google Lens’ newest technology has the potential to democratize an entire subsector of knowledge for the general population through easy-to-use applications. Furthermore, these tools may significantly augment clinician workflows; if a physician encounters a rash or rare condition that he/she has never seen before, these apps may be able to aid in the diagnostic process.
Undoubtedly, Google has single-handedly revolutionized the modern concept of search and how information is digested. Now, Google Lens is harnessing this same technology for image based search across a variety of use-cases, redefining the power of search, yet again.
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