Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) wrapped up its Google I/O 2017 conference this week and there was no shortage of product updates. Android O, new Google Home features and Google Assistant on Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone, to name a few. One of the biggest things to come out of the week, though, is the company’s determination to take over your smartphone camera. Artificial intelligence is making Google Photos smarter that ever, while AI and your smartphone’s camera combine for Google Lens, a new feature that lets Google Assistant analyze what it sees through that camera.
Introduced during the Google I/O 2017 keynote, Google Lens was described as a “set of vision-based computing capabilities.” Which is a rather dry way of saying the company is applying its advanced AI technology to your smartphone camera and integrating the results with Google Assistant.
Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (OTCMKTS:SSNLF) introduced its Bixby personal assistant with the Galaxy S8. One of Bixby’s features is the ability to identify objects such as landmarks and objects that are viewed through the smartphone’s camera. Remember Amazon.com, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) Fire Phone? It came with a Firefly feature that let users point the camera at a product, identify it, then buy it on Amazon.
With Google Lens applying artificial intelligence to a smartphone’s camera, GOOGL isn’t breaking new ground.
Yet it’s still one of the most exciting things to come out of Google I/O. Why? Because Google’s application of AI and integration with Google Assistant means Google Lens goes far beyond simply identifying what your camera sees. Point your smartphone at a restaurant and with Google Lens at work, Google Assistant not only identifies the restaurant, but offers up details about it, including ratings. In one demonstration, pointing the camera at a router’s login credentials triggered Google Assistant to automatically log the smartphone in to that Wi-Fi network. And in the photo example, pointing your camera at a billboard identifies a band, the date of a concert and suggests actions like adding the date to your calendar and buying tickets.
In other words, Google Lens has the potential to go far beyond previous attempts to combine a smartphone camera and AI, making the leap from identifying objects to contextually interacting with them.
Google Photos might just be the company’s fastest growing product. At Google I/O 2017, it was announced that the user base has now grown to over 500 million people. They upload 1.2 billion photos and videos every day.
And Google is applying a generous helping of AI and machine learning to make Google Photos even more compelling. Suggested Sharing analyzes your photos, identifies the people in them and correlates that with the contacts you frequently communicate with in Gmail and the Google Photos app itself. It then suggests who you might want to share a specific photo with.
The company also showed off Google Lens technology being used in Google Photos. The AI-driven Google Lens is able to analyze a photograph, determine what you were trying to capture, then automatically clean up the image by removing elements like a finger that got in the way of the camera.
Google Photos also received some additional new features including shared libraries that let you automatically share photos with select users and new printed photo books. Those photo books –with starting prices ranging from $9.99 to $19.99 — are decidedly old school compared to AI, but they’re likely to be big money makers for GOOGL.
At Google I/O 2017, the company may not have had any real blockbuster announcements, but there were many important new features across its many services and products. And one of the more important themes was the application of AI to the smartphone camera. Google Lens has the potential to make Google Assistant and Google Photos killer apps. And because both are available at the app level instead of being inextricably integrated with the Android operating system, GOOGL has the opportunity to push the technology into Apple’s turf as well, with Google Photos and Google Assistant on the iPhone.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.