Another dot in the blogosphere?

Looking at Google Lens

Posted on: May 8, 2021

I have not paid much attention to Google Photos updates other than the big one about storage limits from 1 June 2021 onwards. But when I uploaded yesterday’s screenshot of some text, I noticed the option to “Copy text from image”.

This turned out to be the incorporation of Google Lens, an optical character recognition (OCR) system for scanning images, recognising text, and converting those pixels into actual text.

This is useful if you encounter agencies that send email but insist on embedding images of text (and other elements). They choose not to use PDFs. You can still copy text off PDFs, but you are out of luck with images. My guess is that these agencies think that the images are a more secure way of sharing information. 

They are stuck in the past and thinking only of themselves. They forget that OCR exists and their recipients often need to act on what they read, e.g., click on URLs. If URLs are in one image, they are not clickable. The recipient of such inconsiderate email needs to type the often gobbledegook URLs into their browsers.

This is where tools like Google Lens (and any other OCR app) provide some relief. These tools are not only much more accurate now, they can scan entire books. 

OCR is not just useful for archiving books. It helps the visually-impaired read by first converting what they cannot see into text and then having a text-to-speech tool read the text. 

So when I look at Google Lens, I see the past and present. Agencies that do not know about this or care for their audiences need to play catch up.

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