Google Lens has long been a powerful party trick for anyone who needs to identify a flower or translate their restaurant menu, but it's about to jump to the next level with some Bard integration that's rolling out "in the coming weeks".
Google teased its tag-team pairing of Lens and Bard at Google IO 2023, but it's now given us an update on how the combo will work and when it's coming. In a new blog post, Google says that within weeks you'll be able to "include images in your Bard prompts and Lens will work behind the scenes to help Bard make sense of what’s being shown".
The example that Google has shared is a shopping-based one. If you have a photo of a new pair of shoes that you've been eyeing up for a vacation, you can ask Bard what they're called and, unlike standard Lens, start grilling Bard for ideas on how you should style the new shoes.
Naturally, the Lens-Bard combo will be able to do more than just offer shopping advice, with huge potential for travel advice, education, and more. For example, imagine being able to ask a Lens-powered Bard to not only name a holiday landmark but build you a good day trip itinerary around it.
This isn't the end of Google Lens' new tricks, either. It's also tentatively jumping into the health space with a new feature that helps you identify any skin conditions that have been nagging you (below). To use the new feature, Google says you can "just take a picture or upload a photo through Lens, and you’ll find visual matches to inform your search".
It can apparently also help identify other nagging issues like "a bump on your lip, a line on your nails, or hair loss on your head". Naturally, these won't be proper diagnoses of conditions, but they could be a start of a conversation with your doctor.
If you aren't familiar with Google Lens, it's pretty easy to find on Android – it'll either be built into your camera app or you can just download the standalone Lens app from the App Store. On iPhone, you'll find Lens within the official Google app instead.
The budding Google Lens and Bard partnership could be a match made in search heaven, given that Lens is the most powerful visual search tool around and Bard is improving by the week. And that combo could be a powerful alternative to ChatGPT.
ChatGPT itself has basic image recognition powers and Microsoft did recently bring AI-powered image recognition to its Bing search engine. But the integration of the two isn't quite as powerful as the incoming Lens-Bard integration, at least from what we've seen from Google's demos.
Unfortunately, Google's extreme tentativeness around Bard (which is still labeled an 'experiment') means we might not see its full potential for a while. For example, the huge potential power of this Lens and Bard combination will be limited by the fact that there's still no Google Bard mobile app.
Google could change its stance in the future, but right now we're limited to using Bard in our web browsers – and that's far less convenient for visual search than scanning the world with a smartphone and its built-in camera.
So while the integration of powerful Google apps like Lens with Bard has massive potential for how we search the world for info, ChatGPT will rest a little safer in the knowledge that Google is taking a glacial approach to unleashing its full AI-powered potential.
Get daily insight, inspiration and deals in your inbox
Get the hottest deals available in your inbox plus news, reviews, opinion, analysis and more from the TechRadar team.
Mark is TechRadar's Senior news editor. Having worked in tech journalism for a ludicrous 17 years, Mark is now attempting to break the world record for the number of camera bags hoarded by one person. He was previously Cameras Editor at Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on Stuff.tv, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine. As a freelancer, he's contributed to titles including The Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and Arena. And in a former life, he also won The Daily Telegraph's Young Sportswriter of the Year. But that was before he discovered the strange joys of getting up at 4am for a photo shoot in London's Square Mile.