Microsoft has unveiled its answer to
Google Lens in the form of Bing visual search, which lets you take a snap from your phone and search for it on the web.
And just as Google rolled out Lens to every Android user via the Google Photos app, Microsoft will use its existing apps to speed up the rollout.
For users in the US, visual search is now part of the Bing app for iOS and Android, the Android version of the Microsoft Launcher, and Edge for Android. It's coming soon to Edge for iOS and Bing.com.
The feature could come in handy, say, on a trek when you find a flower or animal and would like to know its name but lack the words to search for it.
"Sometimes, it is almost impossible to describe what you want to search for using words,"
said Vince Leung, product lead for Bing Images at Microsoft. SEE: How we learned to talk to computers, and how they learned to answer back (cover story PDF)
But Microsoft really hopes people will use it for shopping as a tool for hunting down fashion and home furniture bargains.
Upload a pic of the desired object, be it a plant, a jacket, or couch, and Bing will provide suggestions for similar items to the one in the picture and locations that sell it.
Visual search is straightforward to use and can be done by taking a snap from one of the supported apps and uploading the picture from the camera roll. Bing identifies the object and returns, hopefully, relevant information and links.
The feature is one more application of Microsoft's computer-vision algorithms that have been trained on large datasets of labeled images.
Presumably the next phase for Microsoft's visual search will be along the lines of Google Lens, which
Google sees as a combined augmented reality and search feature that uses the camera rather than photos to analyze objects in real time.
Upload a pic of an object, and Bing will provide suggestions for similar items and locations that sell it.
Image: Jamie Papin-Wynne/Microsoft Previous and related coverage Google Lens arrives on every Android phone with Google Photos
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