Monday, December 6, 2021

Lens on Desktop

Search by image... 

... has always been an incredibly useful thing to be able to do.  Google has had a "Search by Image" function for quite a while.  (Since 2011.)  We discussed it first in SearchResearch in 2018, and we talked about Bing's search-by-image function (with its quick and easy cropping tool), and even discussed Tineye and how good Yandex's search-by-image function is.  

One big lesson here is that no one search engine is the best in all cases.  If your usual approach doesn't work, try another!  

Having said that, I'm happy to Google Lens (the newest entry in the array of search-by-image tools) is now available on desktop search... with a bit of futzing around.  Don't panic--the futzing is easy.  There are actually TWO ways to run Google Lens on your desktop.  

1.  Edit your Chrome flags (per the Google Support page "Search your screen with Google Lens") 

     How to: In your Chrome browser, go to Chrome://flags - control-F for lens, set it to "Enabled"  Then relaunch Chrome.  

THEN... you can right-click (CONTROL+click for Macs) on any image to use the Lens search-by-image function. It should look like this if you click on the sharky image on my home page

Note that you can still use regular Image Search by clicking on the "Retry with Google Images" in the lower right corner (you might have to scroll down).   Example below... 

2.  Use this link:  to jump straight into Lens search (picked up from Reddit thread)

When you click on that link, you'll see an error page, like this (eventually it will stop being an error, but in the meanwhile..)

Then, just drag and drop your image to search into that tab--should look a bit like this (this is a photo I took of a flower in my backyard):  

Note you can still get to Google's regular  "Search by image"  by clicking on the link in the lower right of the page.  Why would you want to do this?  Because Lens doesn't always get the latest / best matching images.  Here's an example...   I was reading a news article and wanted to see more about a given image in a story, so I did a Lens search, but the matches weren't very good.  

So I tried the "Try it" button in the lower right, and found why you want to be able to use both Lens and regular Search by Image.  The regular Search-by-image function does a great job of finding all of the current news photos, but doesn't do nearly as good a job of object identification.  Together, they're great!  

This coverage will doubtlessly improve with time, but for the moment, if Lens doesn't work, try the other option.  

The key difference between Lens and Search-By-Image is that Lens does a great job of trying to identify what it is that's in the image.  Here's a photo I took of a small crab-like thing I found at the beach last week.  Amazingly enough, Lens perfectly identified the creature as a Pacific mole crab (Emerita analoga), a small decapod that lives in the swash zone of many sandy beaches in North and South America.  

Note also that Google Lens has great cropping tool now so you can focus Lens' attention onto the part of the image you care about.  Here's a pic I took of many different kinds of fruit tarts at my local French patisserie.  But I wanted a bit more information about one particular one, so I used the cropping tool to select just the part of the image I wanted to know more about... 

And, voila!  It just worked.  


... Hat tip to Henk van Ess for pointing this out to me!  

1 comment:

  1. I used this today. A person had asked for details about an early 19th Century woodcut. I right clicked on the image, used Lens for the first time and it found half a dozen identical pix which had details, mostly for purchase in various sizes and so on. This nailed it down to 1852 May as a poster. The enquirer had seen it in a book from mid 1880. Nifty tool. I will explore further after seeing this post of yours.