Google Maps gets Lens integration when looking at restaurant menus

There might not be a Google I/O 2020, at least physically, but who says in the run-up to whatever Google decides will be the way forward for this year’s cancelled event we can’t continue seeing more implementations of the stuff we saw demoed on stage last year?

At Google I/O 2019, we got to see Google Lens, Google’s own image recognition technology powered by the company’s many years of investment in neural networks and machine learning, gain several capabilities.

Ever needed to just connect to the Wi-Fi from the QR code being displayed on a poster in the conference hall you’re in? Google Lens, at least before Android 10 came and made things all easy, is your go-to.

Now, here’s another habit many of us have developed over the years whenever we go to outlets, especially the ones we deem “boujee” enough to flaunt on Instagram and elsewhere on the internet: we take photos of the menus for sharing elsewhere. That elsewhere can be our ever narcissistic social media feeds or, well, Google Maps. You know, some of us love reviewing outlets and, also, reading what other people have to say about the same.

What if Google could help with that last bit?

For those that find themselves staring at a restaurant’s menu that has been uploaded to Google Maps, Google Lens will be of help to them.

On the Google Maps Android app, when viewing such photos featuring menus, a new “Explore dishes” suggestion will pop up at the bottom of the image with a Google Lens icon at the top hinting that you can perform a visual search of the contents of the menu.

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The role of Lens here is very contextual.

Based on Google’s own analysis of any other such menus that may have been uploaded by reviewers of a particular eatery (it’s not uncommon to have thousands of photos for a single listing so, how do you go about all of them?) as well as their mentions in the reviews, it will be able to draw the attention of the user to the most popular dishes by highlighting them in orange complete with a star icon. A carousel at the bottom provides the visuals by displaying images of the said popular dishes.

When viewing such images on Android, there is now a suggestion chip to “Explore dishes” at the bottom. The Lens icon also appears in the top-right corner to initiate a visual search.

Lens will highlight popular dishes in orange with an accompanying star icon. This virtual overlay helps preserve descriptions and pricing. The bottom sheet includes a carousel of “popular dishes found in image.”

A tap brings up photos and reviews of the item from Google Maps to provide additional context by matching text to a huge corpus of crowdsourced data. Behind-the-scenes, the picture in Maps is just being sent to Google Lens with the business location already known.

“Say you’re at a restaurant, figuring out what to order. Lens can automatically highlight which dishes are popular–right on the physical menu. When you tap on a dish, you can see what it actually looks like and what people are saying about it, thanks to photos and reviews from Google Maps,” Google noted last year at I/O.

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Google Lens comes integrated into the cameras of select devices but is also available as a standalone application on the Play Store (see link below).

Google Lens
Google Lens
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free

Have something that you believe I need to have a look at? Hit me up: echenze [at]