Google Lens has a powerful optical character recognition (OCR) filter that can pull text from any image. Available in Google Photos, the backup service this month is adding the ability to search for text in images.
The official Twitter account quietly announced the feature this afternoon after it was spotted by a user. Search in Google Photos can already recognize objects, events, and people or pets (when their faces are labeled.) Meanwhile, the app leverages GPS data in pictures to allow for location queries.
The new features make use of a technique known as optical character recognition (OCR), with the copy/paste option building on Lens’ existing ability to understand and pull out the text found within photos, be it a screenshot or a photo of a physical sign or document. According to 9to5Google, that feature is available now on some Android devices, although it does not appear to be active quite yet on iOS. You may already be able to search your photos for text using Google Photos on the web.
Google is positioning the Lens feature as a way to easily snag a confounding Wi-Fi password, but it can also be used to grab any portion of text from any photo or screenshot in your Google Photos library on a case-by-case basis. The more impressive feat, though, is the ability to search for any snippet of text without having to pick a photo first. That suggests Google is performing OCR on your entire photo collection automatically.
“Starting this month, we’re rolling out the ability to search your photos by the text in them,” Google wrote in response to prominent venture capitalist Hunter Walk, who noticed earlier this week that the Lens feature had been turned on for his account. “Once you find the photo you’re looking for, click the Lens button to easily copy and paste text. Take that, impossible wifi password.”
You spotted it! Starting this month, we’re rolling out the ability to search your photos by the text in them.
Once you find the photo you’re looking for, click the Lens button to easily copy and paste text. Take that, impossible wifi passwords ?
— Google Photos (@googlephotos) August 22, 2019
When you find the photo you’re looking for, you can click the Lens button to easily copy and paste said text for use elsewhere. Again, for public Wi-Fi passwords and other confusing strings of characters, this could be incredibly handy.
It works in the Android and iOS apps as well as on the web client, we’re told.
The text search feature is actively rolling out and is already available on several devices. If it’s not yet available on your device, hang tight and give it some time.