Skip to main content

Google’s ‘Now on Tap’ lets you run searches in real-time via your camera

google now on tap image search
Google’s Now on Tap just got a whole lot more functional — you can now select specific text to search, and the Marshmallow-only feature can provide results on image searches.

If you haven’t heard of Now on Tap before, that may be because Google hasn’t done a great job of marketing the feature. It’s only available on Android 6.0 Marshmallow devices and above, and is triggered when you press and hold the home button in any app, or on any screen. When you press and hold it for the first time, it will say that you have “discovered” Now on Tap — it’s almost as though Google doesn’t want you to use the feature.

Now on Tap analyzes the information on the screen you trigger it on. For example, assuming a friend messages you plans to meet at a restaurant at a specific time, if you press and hold the home button on that conversation, Now on Tap will offer to create a calendar event with the data provided. You can fill in the rest if it doesn’t have enough.

It’s also essentially a hands-free way to run a Google search based on what you’re looking at — if you come across a mention of Sundar Pichai in a news reader app, triggering Now on Tap will offer up more information about the Google CEO, with links to his Twitter, other social networks, and websites. 

And while it was previously difficult to analyze specific text on a page as Now on Tap would just read everything, Google is now letting you trigger Now on Tap after you highlight a specific word so that it offers more precise information. This is reminiscent of Google Goggles, where you could highlight text after taking a picture to run searches — surprisingly, Google hasn’t killed off that app yet, even though it hasn’t been updated since 2014.

“For example, if you’re reading a news article you can select a specific word, like crustacean, and get a definition and links to relevant apps,” writes Aneto Okonkwo, product manager at Google Search.

If you’re looking at images, you can now use Now on Tap to run image searches for more information. Google offers up the example of looking at a sequoia tree, and tapping and holding Now on Tap. This will bring up information about the Sequoia National Park, and General Sherman — the man that particular sequoia was named after.

Arguably the coolest new feature is the ability to run a Now on Tap search in the camera app in real time. Say you’re looking at the George Washington Bridge and you want more information on it — if you point your smartphone’s camera at the bridge and trigger Now on Tap, it will bring up results in the camera app.

“This works for more than just famous structures like the Bay Bridge, you can even point your camera at a movie poster or magazine and get additional info about what you’re looking at,” Okonkwo says.

No updates are necessary to get these feature, thanks to it just being a server-side switch. They’re available now, but word definitions are only available in English at the moment. Google says it will be rolling out to other languages in the coming weeks.

Editors' Recommendations

Julian Chokkattu
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Julian is the mobile and wearables editor at Digital Trends, covering smartphones, fitness trackers, smartwatches, and more…
Tinder app now lets you run a background check on your date
Tinder offering a background check service in partnership with Garbo.

Tinder will now let users perform a background check on the person they intend to go on a date with, a safety measure that will keep “Tinder Swindlers” at bay and will also play a crucial role in preventing any other kind of physical or emotional trauma. The service is offered by Garbo, a non-profit that aims to make background checks more affordable and easy to access.

Thanks to a partnership with Tinder’s parent company Match Group, the dating app’s users will get two background check tickets for free. Each background check costs $2.50 on Garbo, excluding a small transaction fee. In the coming months, the background check feature will also be making its way to more Match Group-owned dating apps such as OkCupid, PlentyOfFish, Hinge, and Azar, among others.

Read more
You can now download the first Android 12L Beta on your Google Pixel
Android 12L shown for a larger display.

Google announced on Wednesday the first beta release of Android 12L, the next feature drop for the recently released Android 12 operating system. Aimed primarily at tablets and larger-screened devices, Android 12L will focus on changing the Android experience from the much-critiqued blown-up-phone look to a discrete experience that takes the larger canvas of tablets into account.
What's new?
Today's beta release includes the refreshed interface for larger screens, including a column view for the notification shade and lock screen. A new multitasking dock is being introduced to allow faster access to split-screen and drag-and-drop, and Google's now done work to allow every Android 12 app to work with split-screen mode regardless of whether developers have built for it.

The big problem with big-screen Android
Unlike iOS, the Android experience on tablets and larger-screened devices has been abysmal. It's a little understandable when one considers that Google shifted its tablet focus from Android to Chrome OS a few years ago. While Chrome OS currently has a decent tablet experience, one that the current Android 12L seems to want to replicate when looking at the dock and split-screen multitasking, the app experience for both has remained lacking.

Read more
Google now lets you call people directly through the Gmail app
Gmail app cover image.

Google has had a long history of making and giving up on chat apps -- see the infamous Killed by Google Twitter account for more details on the many victims. Now, the company seems to be trying again by adding voice and video calls to Gmail, one of its most popular apps. After integrating Google Meet, Google now gives you the capability to place voice and video calls via the Gmail app, and it will let you switch between chat to a video or audio call when needed.

Google has announced that you can now join meetings and audio calls in Google Chat within the Gmail app on Android and iOS. As of now, the feature is available for one-on-one chats, so a person can only connect with a single person at a time. Google aims to make it easier for office workers to connect with colleagues in the hybrid work world.

Read more