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Seniors search what they see, using a new Lens

A smartphone showing a bird being searched on Lens.

Technology shines when it helps us get things done in our daily lives, and that’s exactly why a group of around 100 very eager seniors gathered in Odense, Denmark. All older than 65, many up to 85, they decided to stay on top of the latest technological tricks and tools. On this March day, the eye-opener was the often overlooked potential in searching for information using visual tools, like Google Lens.

So now the seniors searched their surroundings directly: Scanned trees, plants, animals and buildings, used Translate to get hold of Turkish language menu cards or Japanese sayings, and found product declarations through barcode scanning.

The group was taking part in a training set up by Faglige Seniorer, which organizes 300,000 seniors in total. They first partnered with Google back in 2019 to train seniors in using voice to search, and now the time had come to use live images.

“Often, when I go for a walk, I stumble upon an unknown flower or a tree. Now I can just take a picture to discover what kind of plant I am standing before,” Verner Madsen, one of the participants, remarked. “I don’t need to bring my encyclopedia. It is really smart and helpful.”

Seniors in a country like Denmark are generally very tech savvy, but with digitization constantly advancing — accelerating even faster during two years of COVID-19 — some seniors risk being left behind, creating gaps between generations. During worldwide lockdowns, technological tools have helped seniors stay connected with their family and friends, and smartphone features have helped improve everyday life. One key element of that is delivering accurate and useful information when needed. And for that, typed words on a smartphone keyboard can often be substituted with a visual search, using a single tap on the screen.

Being able to "search what you see" in this way was an eye-opener to many. As the day ended, another avid participant, Henrik Rasmussen, declared he was heading straight home to continue his practice.

“I thought I was up to speed on digital developments, but after today I realize that I still have a lot to learn and discover,” he said.

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