Google Getting Smarter About Visual Search

The days of typing in the lengthy default password from the bottom of your mom’s router could be over.

Google has unveiled a way to get round this, along with dedicated virtual reality headsets and a hyperlocal take on GPS among a host of small but useful improvements to machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Possibly the most useful for day-to-day life is Google Lens, which is effectively the existing “point your camera and click for a relevant search” technology, but working almost instantaneously and with less need to use menus and text input to say what you want to know. According to Google, examples would include pointing the camera at a foreign menu for instant translation (without the need to install or fire up the Translate app) or pointing it at a flower for an instant species identification.

The most useful example was pointing it at the sticker on the base of routers belonging to people who haven’t changed the password. Google Lens will not only figure out this is an SSID and password, but will automatically connect you to the network as well.

For augmented reality, Google is working on what it calls Visual Positioning System. Rather than using satellites to work out your position to a few meters, it will get more precise, small-scale location information by visually scanning for recognized objects. It’s likely a case of the technology’s value depending on how widely and well it’s used, but Google suggests it could work for finding a particular item in a large store.

As for virtual reality, Google says its Daydream system will be compatible with some Samsung Galaxy devices, a slight surprise given Samsung’s own VR efforts. Google’s also getting HTC and Lenovo to make standalone Daydream headsets that don’t require a phone.

There are also some changes to the Google Home device. Users can make hands free calls by speaking to their Home speaker rather than digging out their handsets. There’ll also be an option to set up some “proactive information” that means the device will spontaneously announce important information, such as unexpected heavy traffic before a planned journey, without having to wait for the user to make a voice request.

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