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How to start experimenting with Google Lens



This morning, I was idly looking through my Twitter feed and came across a thread discussing Starbucks’ recent hiring of a former Pinkerton intelligence analyst, which led to a discussion of the history of the Pinkertons as strikebreakers, which led to a 19th-century illustration of a crowd of women confronting uniformed men with guns. Curious as to the source of the illustration, I aimed my Pixel 6 phone at it and tapped on the Google Lens icon on the right side of my homepage’s Google search field.

After maybe a minute, I found a series of websites that had used the illustration, including one from Wikipedia that told me that the image was of an 1884 wood engraving made from a sketch by Joseph Becker illustrating “the striking miners’ reception of ‘Blackleg’ workmen when returning from their work escorted by a detachment of Pinkerton’s detectives.”

To identify this woodcut, I pointed my phone camera at it and used Lens.

Old-time illustration with searched sources

The results were a number of sites that had used the illustration, which enabled me to find the source.

It’s easy to forget how useful Google Lens can be. This Android app has been slowly improving since it was introduced in 2017, and it probably doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. Lens, an image recognition app, can not only help identify the source of an image but also can help you figure out which bird is in your friend’s photo or whether anyone is still selling that sweater you need to replace.

Here are a few of the things you can do with Google Lens. These were tested with a Pixel 6 running Android 12; since Android phones can differ (especially if you’ve got a Samsung device), your mileage may vary.

How to access Google Lens

Before we talk about what Google Lens can do, it’s probably a good idea to let you know how you can access it. There are several places you can find it in Android:

  • In the Google search field on your homescreen, Lens is the icon on the far right. (It looks like a circle surrounded by three multicolored lines and a dot.)
  • In the Google Photo app, swipe left on the buttons on the bottom of the screen until Modes is highlighted, and then select Lens.
  • In the Chrome app, tap the camera icon on the right side of the search field.
  • And of course, you can always just open the Lens app itself.

Home screen

To bring up Lens, you can just tap on the symbol to the right of the Google search field.

Photo app with Modes selected.

You can also select Modes > Lens in the Photo app.

How to use an image from your device

When you open the Lens app, images from your device will be listed below the square “Search with your camera” field at the top.

While you can’t search among those images in Lens (which is inconvenient, to say the least), you can narrow down your search. The section just beneath the search field will say something like “Screenshots” or “Downloads.” Tap on the arrow next to it and you can select from a variety of sources and apps that your image may be associated with.

An easier way to use Lens with an existing image is to go to your Photos app and use its search feature to find the specific image you want. Select the image, then tap on the Lens icon at the bottom of the screen.

How to identify an item or text using your camera

  • If you want to identify an object, some text, or anything else that you haven’t already photographed, then you can by choosing one of the methods above to start Lens on your phone. You’ll see that square field on top labeled “Search with your camera.” Tap on the camera icon in the center of that field, and it will open to take up your entire screen.
  • You’ll see four corner lines that will indicate what Lens is going to concentrate on. Move the camera so that the image you want is inside of those lines; you can also use your fingers to make the image larger or smaller. If you don’t feel you have enough light, tap the lightning bolt icon at the top left.
  • Tap “Search” at the bottom of the screen.

How to identify a specific part of an image

Once you’ve told Lens to start identifying an image, it will begin by trying to guess what in the photo you want to match and will show you what it’s concentrating on by surrounding the item with four “corner” lines. But while Lens can be very good at picking out what’s interesting in a photo, it can guess wrong. For example, when I tried it on a photo of a dog in the foreground with a person walking in the background, Lens centered in on the person.

If you feel that the wrong object is being identified, tap on the item in the photo that you do want it to concentrate on. (Sometimes a secondary object will already have a dot on it, as if to say, “Maybe it’s this instead?”)

Lens with photo showing dog

Lens thinks I want to ID the person in the background. Or maybe the dog instead?

Lens showing dog

By tapping on the dog, Lens knows what you want to ID.

If Lens has chosen the correct item but the outline is taking in too much or too little of the surrounding area, then just use your finger to adjust it.

What else can you do with Lens?

Once you’ve got the basics down, there are a variety of features that you can experiment with. If you go to the Lens app, you can see these features listed at the bottom of the screen below your image. Here are a few:

  • By tapping on Translate, you can translate text to one of several dozen languages.
  • By tapping on Text at the bottom of the Lens screen, you can copy the text to your clipboard or to your device, listen to it being read, or do a search.
  • Homework will bring up information about the highlighted text. For example, when I used Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem “Dirge Without Music,” I got results from the Poetry Foundation and among others.

Poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay

By pointing your camera at text, you can copy it, save it, or have it read aloud.

Poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay

You can also have the text immediately (although probably imperfectly) translated.

  • Shopping will help you find a product similar to the one you’ve taken a photo of (using a barcode will get you much more accurate results).
  • Places lets you point at a building or other object outdoors that will get you information on where you are or what you’re looking at.
  • Dining lets you take a photo of food or a menu and identify recipes or where the restaurant is located.

There are a variety of other things you can do with Lens — and the best way to find out how it works for you is to try it out.

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ElonJet is (sort of) back on Twitter



The college student who ran the now-banned @ElonJet Twitter account that used public information to track Elon Musk’s private jet has resumed his activities on Twitter under a new username. As noted by Insider, Jack Sweeney, 20, has created a new account called @ElonJetNextDay — which now tracks Musk’s private jet with a 24-hour delay to circumvent Twitter policy restrictions.

Sweeney’s original ElonJet account was suspended from the platform last week following accusations from Musk that it violated Twitter rules by revealing his live location. Twitter updated its policy to forbid publishing a person’s real-time location on the same day it suspended ElonJet. Sweeney said in an interview with Insider that he will be “posting manually” for now while he works on the framework to fully automate the account.

Musk tweeted on December 15th that “Posting locations someone traveled to on a slightly delayed basis isn’t a safety problem, so is ok.” Twitter also explicitly states that “sharing publicly available location information after a reasonable time has elapsed, so that the individual is no longer at risk for physical harm” is not a violation of platform rules. Elsewhere in the policy, it notes that its definition of “live” location data means someone’s real-time or same-day whereabouts.

Most commercial and private aircraft are equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast technology (ADS-B) that transmits a unique code (tied to the airplane’s tail number) containing information such as altitude and GPS location. This information is publicly available and aircraft flying in the USA and Europe are required to broadcast it in order to prevent midair collisions.

In a statement back in November, Musk said he would not ban the original ElonJet account as part of his “commitment to free speech” despite claiming it was a “direct personal safety risk.” The automated ElonJet account posted publicly available information regarding the location of Musk’s 2015 Gulfstream G650ER, and had amassed over 540,000 followers before it was permanently banned on December 14th. Musk previously offered Sweeney $5,000 to have the account taken down.

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She Worked for Twitter. Then She Tweeted at Elon Musk.



Early in November, Twitter’s roughly 7,500 employees received a terse email from a generic address: “In an effort to place Twitter on a healthy path, we will go through the difficult process of reducing our global work force.” The note was signed “Twitter.” On Nov. 3, some people at the company received emails indicating they would be laid off the next day.

That night, Ms. Solomon, her husband and a few colleagues headed to Dots Cafe Portland, a lounge on Clinton Street. Phones were on the table, face up, she said. As the work friends talked, they tapped away at their phones, taking part in chats on the Signal app with colleagues in London, Seattle and San Francisco. Messages like “I got hit” were flying across screens, Ms. Solomon recalled. “You were seeing your co-workers drop like flies,” she said.

By the next afternoon her team of about 10 engineers was reduced to four. Ms. Solomon and her husband had survived the round of layoffs. The next week, she recalled, she awaited further direction from Mr. Musk or the new executive team. Nothing came, she said, except for an email alerting employees that remote work would no longer be permitted, with few exceptions.

Many employees learned of Mr. Musk’s priorities by watching his Twitter feed, where he posted frequently about company business to his more than 100 million followers. On Nov. 5, he complained about the platform’s search function: “Search within Twitter reminds me of Infoseek in ’98! That will also get a lot better pronto,” he wrote. That same day, he tweeted: “Twitter will soon add ability to attach long-form text to tweets, ending absurdity of notepad screenshots.”

That was more than Ms. Solomon and many of her colleagues had heard internally. “Radio silence,” she said. She began to vent her frustration on Twitter.

One of her first tweets in this vein came on Nov. 6, shortly after Mr. Musk announced a new rule for Twitter users in a tweet: “Any name change at all will cause temporary loss of verified checkmark,” he wrote. He had posted that message after many people on Twitter had changed their names to variations on Mr. Musk’s name, most of them mocking.

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The new iOS 16.2 Home app architecture upgrade has disappeared



Apple has removed the option to upgrade to the new HomeKit architecture on devices running iOS 16.2. The change follows multiple reports of issues and problems with the Home app after the upgrade was installed.

Apple spokesperson Emily Ewing confirmed the change in a statement provided to The Verge:

“We are aware of an issue that may impact the ability for users to share the Home within the Home app. A fix will be available soon. In the meantime, we’ve temporarily removed the option to upgrade to the new Home architecture. Users who have already upgraded will not be impacted.“

The new Home app architecture was one of the key features of iOS 16.2, with Apple claiming that the upgrade would be “more reliable and efficient.” MacRumors first discovered this week that the Home app in iOS 16.2 no longer offers the option to upgrade to the new architecture within the Home app settings. Several reporters at The Verge have also confirmed that the upgrade option is unavailable on their devices.

The new architecture was first introduced in the iOS 16.2 beta back in October as an optional upgrade before the iOS 16.2 public release on December 13th. Both the beta and public release required Apple devices logged into iCloud to be running the latest versions of iOS, macOS, and tvOS. The upgrade does not happen automatically when iOS 16.2 is installed on a phone, instead requiring a manual process through the Home app.

The update has caused issues with missing devices and adding multiple users for some

Reddit users who downloaded the optional upgrade prior to its removal have reported issues such as the app booting other members from a Home account and being unable to re-add them. Users on the MacRumors forum have reported being unable to invite users to share the Home, HomeKit‌ devices being stuck displaying an “updating” status, and some accessories vanishing from the Home app entirely. Users who have already upgraded are unable to revert to the previous version of the app.

Update, December 23rd, 2022, 2:15PM ET: Added confirmation and statement from Apple spokesperson. Added links to Apple’s updated support pages.

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