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Google Goggles is dead; long live Google Lens

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A changing of the guard, but Google’s ambitions for visual search remain the same

Google Goggles was launched in 2009, an early example of Google’s ambition to make the visual world as searchable as the internet. Times have changed though, and with the unveiling this year of the faster, slicker, deep learning-powered Google Lens, it’s time to take the goggles off for good.

As spotted by Android Police, Google Goggles got its first update since 2014 this week: a death note. If you load the app, you’re now directed to a landing page that instructs you to download either Google Lens (if you’ve got a compatible handset) or Google Photos (where some of the same image recognition features are also available).

The note telling users to download Google Lens instead.
Image: AndroidPolice

It’s been a long time coming. According to a Wired report from earlier this year, development on Goggles had “more or less shut down” by 2012 after users lost interest. But advances in artificial intelligence since then have vastly improved our ability to recognize objects in photos (the original Goggles app only recognized famous art, landmarks, and a few consumer items), and Lens is definitely a more satisfying user experience.

Whether it’ll hold interest in the long run remains to be seen. Visual search is certainly useful when it works, but can still be hit and miss. It might also be a better fit integrated into other services, rather than occupying its own app on your phone. Who knows, perhaps in four years’ time we’ll be writing: “Google Lens is dead; long live Google Vision.”