Google Lens comes to Google Images for searching – and shopping – inside photos

Google this morning announced it’s bringing its A.I.-powered Lens technology to Google Image Search. The idea, explains the company, is to allow web searchers to learn more about what’s in a photo – including, in particular, items they may want to shop for and buy. For example, a photo of a well-decorated living room might have a sofa you like, but the photo itself wouldn’t have necessarily informed you who made the sofa or where it was for sale.

Google Lens – yes, acting very much like Pinterest – will now be able to help with that.

You’ll be able to tap on “dots” that appear within the photo, which designate items Google Lens has identified, or you can use your finger to “draw” around an object in the photo to trigger Google Images to search for related information. Google then searches across the web, including for other images, web pages, and even videos where this object may appear.

This isn’t just for shopping, of course. Google Lens can also be used to learn more about landmarks, animals, places you want to travel and more.

But Google naturally sees a good fit for Lens when it comes to directing users to products and, therefore, the websites of potential Google advertisers. This is the area where Pinterest has been steadily advancing.

Pinterest last month reported a 25 percent increase in monthly active users, as it gears up for its IPO. That means more people are starting their shopping journeys on its site, looking for purchase inspiration around things like fashion, home décor, travel, and other ideas. It’s also been beefing up its advertising product to further capture users’ interests and connect them with brands, having earlier this year added promoted videos to its ad products. 

And just a week ago, Pinterest announced it had rebuilt the infrastructure around product pins to make its site and app more “shoppable,” while reporting that tests of the changes had shown a 40 percent increase in visits to retailers’ site, as a result.

For these reasons – not to mention the looming threat of Facebook and Instagram ads sending users directly to retailers’ websites, and Amazon’s not insignificant entry into the advertising business – it’s clear that it was time for Google to leverage its own technology to help improve shopping and click-through rates for retailers on its site, as well.

Google says Lens in Images is now live on the mobile web for people in the U.S. searching in English, and will soon be rolled out to other countries, languages and Google Images locations.