Anyone who’s ever gone exploring in a new city has probably walked past some cool street art, Instagrammed it, and then went “Oh well, whoever made it was really cool.” Instead of shrugging your shoulders, Google Lens could soon be used to find out which local artist crafted the artwork - and it's already being tested in the United States.
The new feature is currently being tested in collaboration with Wescover, a digital art discovery catalogue of about 5000 local brands and artists. To use the feature, you simply pull up Google on your iOS or Android smartphone, hit the Lens icon, and point the camera at the artwork in question. If it’s in Wescover’s database, you’ll then see information about the creator, their story, and more examples of their work. You’ll also be able to reach out either as a fan or buyer.
Right now, the feature only works in San Francisco but Wescover says on its website that more cities are planned for future updates. Some current examples include the mural at Craftsman and Wolves coffee shop, as well as the paintings at the MOMA’s In Situ restaurant. It’s also set its sights on other types of art, including furniture and lighting.
While Wescover is currently only being rolled out in the U.S., the potential for this technology is limitless, and we'd love to see a version here in Australia.
Google Lens was first introduced at Google I/O in 2017, but you’d be forgiven for not knowing much about it. It was initially buried in the Google Assistant and Google Photos app, before launching as a standalone app about a year ago. For the most part, it’s been good for identifying everyday objects, or specific landmarks, and giving a small snippet of information. However, many of the magical demos Google showed off at I/O are still in the works.
While cool, the Wescover collaboration does have its limitations. For starters, artists have to be in Wescover’s network for Lens to work. Plus, it’s not likely that you’ll be able to identify every piece of artwork you come across. That’s because while there’s no fee for creators to register with the platform, and Wescover itself has already done its own work to independently create entries for artists, it’s still heavily dependent on word of mouth.
Even so, it’s a step toward that visual search engine Google teased back in 2017.