Everyone has heard the cliché saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Google took that to heart last week and announced Google Lens, a new artificially intelligent, augmented reality computer vision technology that allows users to use photos to search the internet rather than typing words into a search bar.
Whether it saves 3 seconds or 15 minutes, pointing your phone at something and hitting search is much easier than condensing your search into a few words and filtering through the results. It could be argued that photos can lend more information to the search engine, as well as cut down on time spent finding exactly what the user is looking for. Regardless, Google Lens is solid proof of the image-based direction technology and society is taking.
More and more often in our digital worlds, we’re seeing the importance of images over text. Snapchat and Instagram are capitalizing on it, and Facebook and Twitter are more photo-oriented now than ever. Even our text conversations are capable of automatically converting words in Emojis! In addition, Apple gives iPhone users visual effects that can accompany messages. We send memes and gifs instead of words. People are visual beings and suckers for convenience, which is making imagery increasingly vital to our lives.
Inevitably, technology is moving closer to visual communication because it’s more efficient and arguably more informative. In the journalism world, this topic is all too common—would someone rather read a 500-word article or view a photo gallery that tells the story? Probably the latter, but in a way the answer should be both. Pictures and text complement one another, whether it’s an Instagram caption or text placed over a Snap. Yet if one thing’s certain it’s that the length of text people are willing to consume is dropping fast.
But preaching the importance of both images and text doesn’t change the reality of the situation. Photos are easier. They’re concise. And like the creative writing teacher who drills “show, don’t tell” into your head, pictures are capable of doing that quite literally.