Google made a subtle announcement on Twitter: it’s in the process of rolling out new AI features for its Lens platform that will let you search your Google Photos library for text that appears within photos and screenshots. Then, you’ll then be able to easily copy and paste that text into a note, document, or message.
Both of the new features make use of a technique known as optical character recognition (OCR), with the copy/paste option building on Lens App 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. This 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.
Since then, Google Lens has added the ability to search the web for photos of menu items, add contact information from a business card to your address book, and all manner of other OCR-related tricks. But these new Photos features seem like a more large-scale deployment of the AI technique, done so on a user’s entire library to make it searchable and to give you the ability to pull that text out of photos.