Google Now on Tap Gets Optical Character Recognition to ‘Read’ Photos

Google appears to still be tinkering with the ins and outs of its Google Now on Tap feature. A number of users have begun noting that the software is now capable of performing optical character recognition (OCR) using your regular camera viewfinder of from a previously taken picture.

Initially spotted by some users on Reddit, the OCR feature on Google Now on Tap seems to be in its very early stages as it gives different results every time. Most of the times it does not deliver any results at all. All you have to do is to capture an image from the  Android 6.0 Marshmallow based device’s camera and simply scan it with Google Now on Tap feature. The service would then show you results or even recognise phone numbers from the captured image.

Google Now Tap

  • After having read the text from an image, the system uses Google Now to bring up a number of related search options based on contextual information from the picture.
  • Results for people, brands, books, and news all appear to be displayed. Navigation information can also crops up from time to time, and Now on Tap is also able to pull phone numbers from an image for you to call back later.
  • It seems to work in a similar way to Google Translate’s OCR for directly translating text from images.
  • Interestingly though, the feature isn’t working with general image recognition, it has to be text based.

About OCR (Optical Character Recognition)

When we talk about OCR, that’s different from reading the text on a web page or in an app as Google Now on Tap has always done. Google Now appears to be recognizing the text in photos to perform searches, like that weird Marc Jacobs label below and Artem’s name above. The first thing to note, this doesn’t appear to work on all phones equally.

The OCR feature still looks to be in its early stages though. Text read through the viewfinder doesn’t always come through completely intact, and different phones appear to be reproducing varying results from the same source material. Similarly, using different gallery apps to look at pictures produces hit and miss results.

Google’s image and language learning is at the heart of how the company’s search prowess will evolve in the future. Google Now on Tap is a big part of that, and OCR would certainly make the service more compelling. So give this a try and keep an eye on more feature that may pop up.