Google Now on Tap Gets Smarter With Its Selections

New Text Select and Image Search capabilities give Android Marshmallow users a way to get more information about content on their screens, Google says.

Google Now on Tap

Google has made its Now on Tap feature in its Android 6.0 Marshmallow mobile operating system a little smarter.

New features in Now on Tap, announced this week, will make it easier for users of devices running Marshmallow to get additional information and context on text, images, photos and other content that they may looking at on their devices.

Now on Tap is a feature that Google announced last year with its release of Marshmallow. It uses whatever content is on the user's screen to serve up related information and also actions that users can take. For example, a user looking at a movie listing at a theater would be able to quickly pull up reviews and information on the cast simply by tapping on the home button on his or her device. Or, the user could get additional information on a restaurant, a person or an image on the device's screen.

The information is served up in so-called Now cards that are designed to provide key information on a topic at a glance. Now on Tap is available in English and a variety of other languages, including French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Italian and Russian.

The new Text Select and Image Search features announced this week build on existing capabilities by letting users select the exact word, phrase, photo or image on which they want additional information.

Prior to this, when using Now on Tap with an application, email, chat or other text-heavy content, the results were not always as precise as they could have been, Google Product Manager Aneto Okonkwo said in a post on the company's Inside Search blog.

"Starting today, you can give Google a nudge by selecting exactly what you want help with, and you'll get the right information, right away," he said. "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."

The new features allow users to get similar granular information on images on their screen. For instance, a user browsing through images on Google Photos or searching through Pinterest for specific artwork can pull up an information card on the specific photo or artwork by tapping on the home button, Okonkwo said.

Real-time searches too are supported on the newly updated Now on Tap app. For instance, users standing in front of a building or a monument can get more information on what they are looking at by opening the camera app on their mobile device, pointing the camera at the object and tapping on the home screen. "This works for more than just famous structures like the Bay Bridge," Okonkwo said. You can even point your camera at a movie poster or magazine and get additional info about what you're looking at."

Now on Tap has received considerable acclaim from reviewers for serving almost as a digital assistant for Marshmallow users. Google itself has described the feature as something that assists users with whatever they are doing, in the moment and anywhere on their phone.

In addition to helping Android users, Google says Now on Tap helps developers put their applications in front of more users. For example, a user reading a Now card about restaurant will have the option of making a reservation via the OpenTable app on his or her phone, if the user has the app.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.