It’s not difficult to find beautiful interiors on the Internet. (Obviously you’re starting with Clever home tours, right?) It’s figuring out the exact furnishings and accents in a photo that can be a real challenge. Sure, if you have a degree in decorative arts or work in the industry, you might know a Thonet chair from an Eames from a Blu Dot from something you can buy for $20 on Amazon. But the rest of us (very understandably) lack the design lingo to execute a successful search. “People have all this language to articulate what things look like, but I felt like I was starting from scratch,” says Cathy Edwards, the director of engineering for Google Images, of the time she kept running into this wall when renovating her house—you find the photo, but how do you find the chair? “Once I learned the words to use, I’d find these fantastic results. It turns out I like “Swedish minimalism.” This was about three years back, so rather than leave it at that, her team went to work devising a better system.
“One of the things I’ve been doing since I started here is help users query in different ways so they don’t have to be an expert to write the query and take action on the query,” she explains. This morning, her team launched a product called Lens on Google Images when you’re using mobile web. Previously, Lens was only available on the Pixel’s camera, a smart little tool that helps you learn more about specific items in a photo or while you’re looking through the lens. (See a piece of art you like? Open up Lens in camera mode and a little dot will appear on the artwork when you point at it; click that to see a bunch of shopping links for similar pieces and maybe even The One.) Now that the feature is available on all phones through browser mode, you’ll be able to use it to shop for the home decor you find in images on the Internet and find more images like the ones you love—and on and on until you’ve been doing it for hours. That is, of course, the way these things go.
We could keep explaining, but this extremely handy little GIF Google sent over shows it off pretty exactly—and appropriately, since the whole concept is about searching more effectively without using words.
Don’t freak out if your Google Images doesn’t have the feature yet; just give it a minute to hit every server in its system. (It’ll arrive on desktop Google Images in the coming months.) Then start searching using Lens. Click on the little dots that appear on images to shop for something similar, or find more like images by circling an area of a photo you really dig. It’s really about getting more information from visuals: Use it when you want to know what a specific plant is (and where to get the planter it’s sitting in) or when you’re renovating to figure out what that feature is called that you like on the side of your neighbor’s house. The applications go well beyond the decorative realm—think of travel and identifying more about landmarks—but let’s face it, we just want to go shopping.