Google has unveiled a groundbreaking new AI-powered feature called “Circle to Search” for Android phones, which allows users to search for anything on their screen simply by circling it. The new capability leverages advanced computer vision and language understanding to instantly recognize objects, text, places, products and more, delivering lightning-fast contextual information.
How Circle to Search Works
Enabled through a partnership between Google and Samsung, Circle to Search debuts on the new Galaxy S24 line of phones. Users can literally draw a circle around anything visible on their screens to activate a search.
For example, circling an appliance would surface web results about appliance specifications, reviews and where to buy it. Circling a landmark would provide historical details, visitor information and more. Users can even circle text within apps like messages, photos and screenshots to quickly translate languages or define unfamiliar terms.
Behind the scenes, Circle to Search uses Google’s advanced AI models to instantly recognize and understand what’s encircled, then serves up the most relevant information in an overlay. This eliminates the need to switch apps or copy/paste into a search bar.
Major Advancement for AI-Powered Search
Industry analysts view Circle to Search as a quantum leap forward in contextual search technology. “This goes far beyond current voice assistants by allowing visual search of anything visible on a phone’s screen,” said Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy. “It’s a pivotal development that foreshadows the next generation of AI-powered mobile experiences.”
Early hands-on reviews praise Circle to Search as fast, accurate and “magical.” The new capability builds on Google’s existing Lens visual search, but is quicker, more versatile and accessible via simple gestures.
“By removing friction from the search process, Circle to Search has the potential to fundamentally transform how we access information on our phones,” wrote Joanna Stern in The Wall Street Journal.
|Key Improvements of Circle to Search vs. Previous Visual Search
|Faster, real-time results
|Works on full range of visual content
|Accessible from anywhere by gesture
|Delivers highly-contextual info
Coming to More Android Devices
Initially exclusive to the Galaxy S24 lineup, Samsung and Google have confirmed plans to expand Circle to Search more Android devices later this year, starting with the upcoming Pixel 8 series.
Support for Circle to Search requires optimized AI acceleration hardware plus improvements that Samsung and Google jointly developed for Android 13.
Over time, the partners plan to license the technology to additional mobile device makers. There is also heavy speculation that Circle to Search will eventually make its way to iPhone, as Apple has historically adopted Google’s most popular mobile innovations.
Poised to Become Mainstream Quickly
Backed by Google’s unmatched search capabilities and Samsung’s global device footprint, analysts expect Circle to Search mainstream adoption faster than previous visual search tools.
Uptake is projected to be particularly strong among younger demographics. “Gen Z consumers have grown up searching visually via apps like Instagram and TikTok,” said industry analyst Thomas Husson. “Circle to Search maps perfectly to their behaviors while unlocking Google’s unrivaled search index.”
Early data indicates consumers are 3X more likely to use visual search compared to typing keywords. By eliminating typing and clicking, Circle to Search removes remaining friction.
Implications Across Industries
Circle to Search has the potential to significantly disrupt multiple economic sectors, predict analysts. For example:
E-Commerce – Comparison shopping and research can happen effortlessly. Users can circle products anywhere to view recommendations, reviews and competitive pricing.
Travel & Local – Getting information on destinations, venues, hotels and restaurants becomes frictionless. Specialized sites and apps risk losing engagement and transactions.
Healthcare – Patients can easily search symptoms, conditions, procedures and medications simply by circling photos or text.
Real Estate – Homebuyers get on-demand details on neighborhoods, sales comps and more by circling listings in apps or screenshots. Industry apps face new competition.
Enter the Metaverse – As AR/VR headsets gain traction, Circle to Search offers a natural way to search virtual environments by gesturing.
The Future of Search?
While Circle to Search debuted on the Galaxy S24, its significance extends far beyond a single device. The new capability provides consumers a glimpse into the AI-transformed future of mobile search.
“Google has essentially cracked contextual search on smartphones by uniting computer vision, generative language models and a vast search index,” wrote Joanna Stern in The Wall Street Journal. “Our screens have become gateways to immediate understanding of virtually anything we see in front of us.”
Many experts consider Circle to Search a breakthrough that may redefine search expectations across platforms. “Google has set the pace of progress in AI-enabled search for over 20 years,” said Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO. “With Circle to Search, I’m more excited than ever to see where it goes next.”
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