Photo: Andy Wolber / TechRepublic (Mural designed by Nathan N. Nez, Sr. in Albuquerque, NM)

Google Lens helps make your smartphone camera smarter. Point your phone at text, and Lens translates. Point your phone at a restaurant, and Lens shows you reviews and images of menu items. Focus on a flower, and Lens tries to identify it.

In part, Google Lens relies on machine learning to identify objects. For example, the ability for Google Lens to recognize a flower relies on a process that requires access to a large number of images of flowers; that process works reasonably well with items when large numbers of example images exist.

But some objects are unique, such as a work of art or a custom-designed object. To identify these objects, the system must match an object set of one, which is where Wescover comes in.

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“Wescover was created to help us explore the real world like a showroom,” said Rachely Esman, co-founder and CEO of Wescover. “Our favorite restaurants and dream hotels are incredible places to discover original art and designs, but it’s not easy to find out who-made-what, especially if the piece is unique. We map and credit unique objects so that anytime you encounter something you like, you can reveal the creator behind it.”

You may use Google Lens to identify more than 80 distinct objects created by San Francisco area artists in Wescover (as of August 2019). The objects that are available in Google Lens represent a small subset of the more than 25,000 objects and 6,000 creators available to search and view at (Figure A).

Figure A

Wescover publishes data that includes artist, location, and image information to enable people to use Google Lens to connect with creators. As of August 2019, about 80 works in the San Francisco Bay Area can be recognized with Google Lens.

While Wescover built a dataset of distinctive works created by active artists, Google sought to expand Lens experiences. “At this year’s Google I/O, we announced that we’re starting to work with partners—like museums, magazines, and retailers—on unique immersive experiences that connect digital information to the physical world through Google Lens,” said Eddie Chung, director of product management, AR and Google Lens.

“We’re working with Wescover to connect their catalogued items to the people, places, and stories behind objects to provide even more information for users,” said Chung. “By working with partners like Wescover, we can help connect real-life objects and images to information straight from the source.” Wescover publishes content to Google Lens, so that when people use Lens to identify an object in one of the Wescover locations, the system can better match results.

“These partner experiences are in early stages right now,” said Chung, “but by allowing partners to connect their own digital information to the physical world, we think we can provide really helpful additional information in context.” It’s the sort of experiment that seems to make a lot of sense for Google, for Wescover, and for people who want to use Google Lens to learn more about the world around them.

Wescover can help creators be recognized for their work–the intent is to continue “growing the community of creators,” said Esman. Wescover will always be free for artists and creators, Esman said. The company is considering a premium version that would make it easier for people to purchase directly from the artist.

Wescover wants to make it as easy as possible for people to discover stories all around them. For example, if you’re sitting in a restaurant with a friend, Wescover should let you learn about the artist who made the mural in that restaurant. “We want to people to more easily buy from, engage with, and support creators,” said Esman.

Of course, for this whole process to succeed, you need images of an artwork or designed object, the public location of that work, and information about the artist. It’s the combination of the three pieces of information—the work, the artist, and the location—that can bring value to artists, fans, and potential art buyers.

This article is also available as a download, How to use Google Lens and Wescover to discover the creators of art and design (free PDF).

How to use Google Lens

1. Install either the Google Lens app (on Android) or the Google app (on iOS).
2. Open the app–in the Google app on iOS, tap the Google Lens icon.
3. Point your camera at the item you want to identify.
4. Tap the magnifying glass icon near the bottom of the screen.

Google Lens displays search results from Wescover.

Your thoughts?

If you’re an artist or creator, what do you think of Wescover as a way for people to learn more about you and your work at a specific location? If you’re a potential purchaser of artwork, does the ability to learn more about an artist via Google Lens interest you? If you manage or operate a business that showcases art or design pieces, what do you think of the Wescover collaboration with Google Lens? Let me know what you think, either in the comments below or on Twitter (@awolber).

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