Google uses AI to lay the groundwork for better AR

Google uses AI to lay the groundwork for better AR

At Google's live event in Paris, the search giant announced several new artificial intelligence features, enhancing and expanding AR capabilities.


AI has recently captured headlines with its ability to create images that resemble high-quality photographs, drawings of fantasy creatures, and paintings of lush landscapes. It can instantly generate pages of text in various styles, at any length, or write computer code to assist programmers.

Those are impressive capabilities, and Google will launch its chat AI, Bard, in the near future. Google is also leveraging AI in subtle ways to make AR effects more convincing and useful.

Google Lens is a perfect example; rather than typing a search, you can now take a photo to begin a search, translate text, and scan printed words into text that you can copy and paste on your phone.

Google Lens: Your camera is your keyboard

Google Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan pointed out that the use of Google Lens has exploded, with more than 10 billion visual searches performed each month. As such, Google has been working to improve this technology that combines AI and AR.


Translation, one of the most useful Google Lens features, has been enhanced to make AR overlays more appealing. Previously, the AR translation appeared over a blocked-out background, hiding the foreign language text.

In the new version, Google Lens recreates the missing pixels with AI-generated graphics that blend seamlessly with the background. The result is a photo that appears as if it had always contained writing in your native language.

Lens recently received an upgrade called multisearch that allows you to refine a Lens result by adding keywords. A "near me" search finds similar products close to your current location. The "near me" feature launched first in the United States but will roll out to more countries in the coming months.


Google Maps becomes more immersive

Google's Immersive View renders detailed 3D models of select landmarks and cities in Google Maps thanks to AI analysis of billions of aerial photographs and 360-degree Street View images. The resulting graphics are almost photorealistic and allow you to fly virtually around objects and through cities via these digital recreations of reality.

A wireframe representation of Google Maps Immersive View.

A wireframe representation of Google Maps Immersive View. | Image: Google

This Google Maps technology was first announced in 2022 and included 360-degree views of 250 landmarks in 2022. Immersive View will soon be expanded to cover eight cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, London, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Dublin, Florence, and Venice.

A related Google Maps feature, Indoor Live View, uses NeRF technology to let you visit select restaurants and other businesses virtually with your phone and works just like Street View.



Google Maps Indoor View shows a directional arrow in an AR overlay.

Google Maps Indoor View shows a directional arrow in an AR overlay | Image: Google

Google is significantly increasing the number of locations that feature indoor AR navigation and immersive view. One thousand new airports, train stations, and shopping centers have been added. The emphasis is still on major metropolitan areas. Locations include New York, London, Melbourne, Sydney, Berlin, Frankfurt, Prague, Paris, Tokyo, Taipei, Singapore, Madrid, Barcelona, and Sao Paolo.

Google Live View eases travel

Google's Live View is an existing Google Maps feature that uses your phone's camera to show the location of places, overlaying visual labels in a live AR view. This will be incredibly useful when traveling through unfamiliar areas. Live View is rolling out now for Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, London, Paris, and Tokyo. It's coming soon to Barcelona, Dublin, and Madrid.

Google Live View uses to phone's camera to identify places of interest.

Google Live View uses to phone's camera to identify places of interest. | Image: Google

Where available, you can tap the camera icon in the Google Maps search bar to enable Live View. You can tap on any pins that appear in the AR view to learn more about that location.

While restaurant reviews are helpful, finding your way around an airport is a necessity. Live View can superimpose arrows in your phone's viewfinder, so you won't get lost when navigating a busy airport or train station.


Google Art and Culture

The Google Arts and Culture app is packed full of information. It includes several AR features that make what might seem like dry topics more engaging.

Art selfie was Google's first on-device AI app from Google. It lets you snap a selfie or take a photo of a pet, then find similar people and animals in classic works of art.

Google Woolaroo web app recognizes a tree and translates the word to various languages.

Google Woolaroo web app recognizes a tree and translates the word to various languages. | Image: Google

A recent addition is Google's Woolaroo which supports 17 languages and can identify objects using your phone's camera. The Woolaroo web app overlays the words of recognized objects in the selected language. It's an immersive way to build up your vocabulary of foreign languages.

Google's Arts and Culture app can bring famous artwork, as well as archeological and scientific objects, into your home with its AR feature. The periodic table feature lets you view atoms at a room-filling scale via your phone. Google is making this learning tool available in many more languages soon, including German, French, Spanish, and more.

Google Arts and Culture shows and AR view of an atom.

Google Arts and Culture app shows an AR view of an atom. | Image: Google

Overall, interest in AR models is increasing rapidly. Google reported that there has recently been an eight-times increase in the use of the AR features of Google Arts and Culture. The Google Arts and Culture app can be found in the iOS App Store and Google Play.

Google wrapped up the event by emphasizing that we no longer have to type text searches manually as more visual search options become available and expand to cover more locations in the future. This clearly sets the stage for the future launch of Google's AR headset or AR glasses.

Sources: Google on YouTube