Submitted by AJ Cann on Mon, 26/07/2021 - 16:50
Google Lens

Artificial Intelligence marches on.  Soon we will be replaced by machines. More...

Image search is a hot area of development online. There's a good reason why - for example, Instagram offers the ability to recognize items from shared photos (e.g. latest style of trainers) and then seamlessly allows you to shop on line. Follow the money. Impressive Instagram, but Google has the drop on you. Powered by Google Deep Mind, you already have the means to apply the most powerful A.I. ever developed to identify images - via your smartphone. Within the Google app on your phone, Google Lens will translate foreign text and solve maths, history, chemistry, biology and physics homework questions, as well as recognising brands and models of man-made objects. It can also recognise breeds of dog and garden plants. I wasn't too impressed the last time I tried this a year or so ago, so I wasn't expecting much. I was surprised at how quickly this technology has moved on and how good it now is - if not faultless. To try to stretch the app a bit, I gave it a workout. Google Lens failed to recognise spider genitalia - OK, fair enough, but on whole organisms, it's pretty good. Most butterflies it was able to identify accurately, depending on the quality of the photo it was given. Obviously, photos taken from extreme angles or from underneath are challenging. 

  • Anthocoris nemorum - correct to genus level, i.e. identified as Anthocoris. *
  • Black Arches - correct.
  • Bordered Beauty - correct to genus level. *
  • Episinus angulatus - correct.
  • Javesella dubia - correct to family level.
  • Privet Hawkmoth - correct.
  • Syrphus - correct.
  • The Uncertain & The Rustic - with these and lots of other brown moths Lens defaults to Vine's Rustic, so almost correct, but this is a difficult test! 

* Where Lens gets it right to genus level, scrolling through the search results will almost always get you to the correct species.

There are a growing number of phone apps which offer to identify plants and animals for you. In the past I have been disappointed by the performance of these, but they are improving. However, they still can't compete with the engineering might that Google Deep Mind brings to Google Lens. It's going to be very interesting to see where we are in another couple of years time...