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Google Now On Tap drops in some OCR features to the camera

Derek Walter | March 9, 2016
The utility is rather sparse for now, but this indicates Google has deeper plans for how Not On Tap could work with your device.

As it stands now, Google Now on Tap is more promise than delivery. The feature launched with Marshmallow with a lot of fanfare from Google about how it would transform the smartphone experience. But in practice it’s only delivered occasional neat tricks.

A new feature spotted by Android Police, however, may pique your interest. It appears some optical character recognition (OCR) is at work, with Google Now On Tap identifying words it spots through the camera.

I tried it out myself to very mixed results. 

When pointed at a calendar filled with handwritten notes, Now On Tap found the phrase “Clift,” a mistaken rendering of the word “Cliffs.” 

Strangely even when I pointed the camera directly at Villa Florence (the name of a hotel in San Francisco) and focused in on the text, it came up with nothing.

Same thing when trying the camera with a Giants sweatshirt. As you see from the above image the team’s name and logo is very prominent, but there was no dice. More easily identifiable text, like phone numbers, may work more consistently.

This is obviously very experimental, so it could get better over time or disappear entirely. Such is way the wind blows in Google’s world.

Why this matters: 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 features that may pop up.


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