Google’s New ”Circle to Search” Is Coming to Android Phones

There are many ways to start a Google web search, from a simple text question to a reverse image search. Google is now introducing another method, called Circle to Search, and it’s coming to select Android smartphones.

The new Circle to Search feature works by opening the Google panel on your phone (which is seemingly replacing the gesture/activation method for Google Assistant), then circling, highlighting, or tapping something on the screen. Google will then try to search for results based on what you highlighted. The demo provided by Google shows someone circling a pair of goggles on a swimming dog, which pulls up the product page for the goggles. Google also showed off how you can drag your finger over text to search for it, like your typical Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software.

Dog wearing goggles while phone screen displays Google's search result for similar goggles.

If Circle to Search seems familar, it’s probably because Google has experimented with on-screen object and text detection on Android many times in the past. Google Now on Tap was introduced on Android phones in 2015, which scanned your screen for text and detected search terms. For example, opening it in a text conversation where people are talking about a restaurant could bring up the Google Maps information for the restaurant. That feature was quietly dropped at some point, but Google later added basic text selection to the multitasking pane in Android.

Circle to Search seems to be a return to the older Google Now on Tap functionality, but with the ability to be more selective in what is searched. It might also be using an on-device Gemini AI for object detection. Google didn’t confirm that detail, but it did mention the feature will roll out to the Pixel 8, Pixel 8 Pro, and Galaxy S24 series first, which are the only phones that support on-device Gemini AI right now.

The new Circle to Search feature will be available starting January 31. However, as previously mentioned, you’ll need a Pixel 8 series or Galaxy S24 series to try it out. Here’s hoping it rolls out to more devices over the coming weeks and months in 2024.

Source: Google


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