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Google Rolls Out New "Circle to Search" Feature for Android Users

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Google Circle to search feature

Google has announced the launch of a new search capability called "Circle to Search" for Android users, allowing them to get information on anything they see on their phone screens without switching apps. The feature will roll out on January 31 for newer premium Android devices including the Pixel 8, Pixel 8 Pro, and Samsung Galaxy S24 series.

With Circle to Search, Android users can simply draw a circle around any object or text on their screens and get relevant information pulled from across the web. This enables quick, in-context searching to satisfy curiosity or get questions answered without disrupting the current app experience.

According to Google, this new capability builds on their long-standing mission of connecting people's curiosity to the information they seek in the most natural and intuitive ways possible. It follows earlier innovations like voice search, humming to identify songs and Lens visual searches. Circle to Search represents the latest milestone in enabling users to search however they want from wherever they are.

To use Circle to Search, Android users press and hold the home button or navigation bar to activate it. They can then circle or otherwise select any item on the screen - like an outfit item in a social media post or text in a YouTube Short. 

Google's AI will instantly return similar items to shop or provide definitions and background. Users swipe away when done to resume their original app.

Circle to Search can help you quickly identify items in a photo or video.
Circle to Search can help you quickly identify items in a photo or video.

Some use cases highlighted by Google include:

  • Identifying fashion items in social posts - Circle sunglasses in an Instagram outfit photo to find where to buy a similar pair.
  • Getting definitions from YouTube Shorts - Scribble over an unfamiliar term like "thrift flipping" to learn it refers to reselling thrift store finds.
  • Asking complex questions - Circle a food item and add text like "Why is this trending?" to get details on a viral recipe or cuisine.

Circle to Search also incorporates Google's multisearch capabilities launched last year. This allows combining circled images with text questions for sophisticated mixed media queries. An example is circling a unique food item and asking "What are the ingredients in this?"

Google "Circle to Search" in Action

According to Google, the AI powering Circle to Search can understand concepts, ideas and topics in images by connecting information from across the internet. It delivers helpful background and recommendations rather than just basic facts.

Early reviews note Circle to Search offers an easy way to follow up on visual curiosities without losing context. However, some observers note the launch is limited to Google's own premium phones and new high-end Samsung models. They expect Apple iPhone support will eventually come given Google's app's presence on iOS.

The Circle to Search rollout demonstrates Google's latest breakthrough in AI-driven search. The company aims to continuously enhance its understanding of natural human queries across media types. While currently limited to certain new Android devices, expanding support seems inevitable if Google wants to make its search services ubiquitous going forward.

For now, Android users with supported phones can try out this new way to satisfy visual and informational curiosity on the go. Circle to Search puts the power of Google's vast knowledge resources right at their fingertips anytime without switching apps. It may well change how people use their devices to interact with the world around them.

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