Microsoft wants searchers to be able to skip the keyboard and search not just with a photo, but within a specific part of that photo. Thanks to artificial intelligence, that feature is now arriving to the Bing app on iOS and Android. Visual Search, announced on Thursday, June 21, uses a camera or an existing photo to search or shop for objects, landmarks,and animals, or to scan a barcode. The Google Lens-like competitor is rolling out to the Bing app as well as Microsoft Launcher on Android and is also expected to head to Microsoft Edge and bing.com at a later date.
Visual Search uses a photo instead of a keyword to search the Bing platform, including both accessing existing photos and snapping a new photo in-app. Using object recognition powered by A.I., the tool can recognize a specific flower or a dog breed, along with recognizing places and landmarks. The Visual Search can also be used to shop, including taking a photo of a piece of apparel or furniture to find similar items.
The tool is accessible from the camera icon inside the Bing app. For photos with multiple objects, the tool also includes an option to draw a box around the object that you would like to search for, instead of getting results for everything the program is capable of recognizing. That is one feature that may set the Bing Visual Search apart from other similar tools like Google Lens.
Microsoft says Visual Search expands on the A.I.already inside Bing Image Search, including a feature launched late last year for uploading a photo to find similar items in fashion and home furnishings.
Besides a photo being more descriptive than typing in keywords like “orange flower,” image-powered searches also help identify that item where the name slips your mind or that species of flower that you’re not familiar with. “Sometimes, it is almost impossible to describe what you want to search for using words,” Vince Leung, product lead for Bing Images, said in a blog post.
Bing isn’t the first platform to add the option to search with a camera — Google and Pinterest have similar image search options. Google Lens, along with flowers and landmarks, can also recognize books and album covers. The older but still young Lens can also read text in real time for tasks like taking a picture of a flyer to add an event. The iOS version inside Google Photos uses only an existing photo and not an in-app camera, however, and doesn’t have an option to specify one object in a photo of multiple items.
The Visual Search is rolling out now inside the Bing app on iOS and Android as well as Microsoft Launcher (Android only). Microsoft says the feature will also be coming to bing.com and Microsoft Edge.