Google Lens

Google Lens is a free app that enables picture-based searches – in other words, it’s like searching the internet using images rather than words. The app can identify text in images and translate it, scan a barcode and provide more information on that product, or identify what’s in an image. You can ask the app to read out the information it finds, which could be helpful if you’re someone with a vision impairment.

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How does Google Lens work?

The Google Lens app is only available to download on Android devices, and the technology is integrated into Android cameras. However, there are a couple of ways that all phone users can access Google Lens. Here are the 4 main ways you can use Google Lens on your smartphone or tablet:  

  • Google Lens app (Android users only): Download the app and take a picture of the thing you’d like to know more about. This is probably the simplest way to access Google Lens if you have a vision impairment because you don’t have to navigate to the Lens feature – you’re already in the right place. You can also use Google Assistant – the virtual assistant on Android phones – to launch the Google Lens app. If you have Google Assistant set up, say ‘Hey Google’ or gesture to activate it and say "Use Google Lens", or tap the keyboard icon in the lower-right corner to type the same command. Watch our video for help setting up Google Assistant on your device.

  • Camera (Android users only): Android users can access Google Lens by opening their camera and tapping the Lens button. Alternatively, you can use a screen reader to locate the Lens button, then tap it. Once your camera has the Lens interface, take a photo and Google will bring up information about the subject of your photo.
  • Google Photos (all phones): Open the app, select a photo, and use a screen reader to locate the Lens icon. Once you’ve tapped the Lens icon, Google will provide a search option or a translate option.
  • Google app (all phones): Open the app and click the Lens icon in the search bar, or use a screen reader to tell you where to find the Lens icon and then tap it. Next, choose a photo from your camera roll and Google will tell you more information about what’s in your image.

How can Google Lens help you?

Picture yourself in these scenarios and learn how you might use Google Lens to make your life easier.

  • Translating text: Google Lens can be helpful if you're on holiday and in a restaurant but the menu is in a different language, or the writing is too small to read. Using Google Lens, you can quickly translate the menu options and hear them read aloud.
  • Image search: If you’re not sure what’s in front of you, for example, you want to know which model laptop you have, you can take a photo on your phone and use the image to perform a Google search. Google will then tell you the model type and bring up relevant information related to it.
  • Copying text: You can also make notes and copy text while Google Lens is reading a document to you. By holding down a section of text, you can copy it, and paste it into your notes app. You can also send the text to another device if you are logged into your Google account – so you could send it to your computer and put it into a Microsoft Word document, for example.
  • Understanding text: If a household appliance breaks down, you might have a drawer full of paperwork and need to find the right manual. With Google Lens, you can check if the manual you have in your hand is the correct one, and you can have the instructions read out loud. You can also use Google Lens to take a photo of the customer support number,  then select the number on the photo and call it to request support. There’s a similar feature available in the Be My Eyes app, in which the AI can read out text for you.  
Google Lens can quickly make inaccessible documents accessible by reading them out loud.
Katrina Ruiz, Habilitation Specialist.

How to use Google Lens with a screen reader

Although getting extra information about an image is useful, for people with vision impairment, having that information read aloud can be even more helpful. There are a few ways to use Google Lens with a screen reader. Here’s how to get Google Lens to read text aloud from a photo:  

  1. Select the “Search” option. Take a photo then select the text. 
  2. Once the text is selected a pop-up menu will appear.
  3. Choose from “Copy”, “Select all”, “Listen”, or “Translate”.
  4. Select “Listen” to hear the text.

Alternatively, if you’re signed into your Google account on your laptop, you can copy the text in an image on your phone and send it straight to your computer. Once you’ve done this, open a Microsoft Word document and paste the text, then use Word’s read aloud function.

Another way to have information read aloud is by using Google Lens and Google TalkBack together.   

How to use Google Lens

Here are different ways to use Google Lens on your device:

Things to keep in mind when using Google Lens

  • To use Google Lens, you must have a smartphone with a camera.
  • Remember, the app can only see what’s in your photo – it can’t give you information about live footage.
  • We recommend that you practise using Google TalkBack before you try using it with Google Lens. 
  • If you’re not using Google TalkBack, the process of getting the app to read text aloud can be complicated.  

What’s the difference between Google Lens and Google Lookout?

Google Lens gives you more information about a specific image on your request, whereas Google Lookout can provide a continuous narration about your environment. For example, you could use Google Lookout to help you navigate around a room, but you couldn’t use Google Lens for this purpose.

How to download Google Lens

If you have an Android device, you can download Google Lens for free from the Google Play Store. If you have an Apple device, you can access Google Lens through the Google app or the Google Photos app, both of which are free to download from the App Store.

Frequently asked questions

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Be my eyes logo

Be My Eyes is an innovative app which connects people with a vision impairment to sighted volunteers via live video calls. The app provides real-time assistance with tasks like reading labels, navigating environments and more.   

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Seeing AI is a free app for Apple iOS devices that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to describe the world around you, including nearby people, text, and objects, and it also scans barcodes.

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Edited and reviewed by Habilitation Specialist Katrina Ruiz on 11/07/2024

Guide Dogs is committed to integrating technology into our service delivery and promoting excellence in accessibility and usability. Our staff undergo comprehensive training in technology and accessibility in collaboration with industry leaders like Apple. We foster knowledge of technology and create content through our Technology Champions, comprising Vision Rehabilitation Specialists and Habilitation Specialists.

We review this content periodically to ensure that it is up to date and includes new features and changes with operating systems. We work with our partners to ensure accessibility is at the centre of the design. To find out more, there is more information in our accessibility policy. 

Please note: Whilst Guide Dogs may be able to suggest various third-party websites and third-party applications which may be able to assist you, those are not endorsed by Guide Dogs. Guide Dogs have no control over those third parties and cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of information and support they can provide or the suitability and quality of any products or services they provide.