Over the past few months, Google Lens – yes, the company’s Android computer vision search tool – made its way to Chrome for desktop. While accessing it wasn’t super obvious, it allowed you to right-click any image and ‘Search with Lens’, calling up a new tab where it would then be processed to look for relevant information – text, images, familiar faces, you name it.
Shortly thereafter, it also gained the same ‘Region Search’ capabilities that its Android counterpart has had since its inception. The ability to drag a selection around a specific part of an image to narrow your search query turns out to be quite useful when Lens searches the entire image and normally only captures one relevant data point.
Now, our friend Leopeva64-2 over on Reddit has discovered that instead of these Lens search results opening in a new tab as previously mentioned, they would open in Chrome’s new ‘Side Panel’. Yes, the Side Panel, for those who are aware, is an experiment Chrome is running right now that houses your Reading List and Bookmarks.
Once you drag a region over an image and let go of your mouse to search with Lens, the side panel will open automatically, and as you can see in the video above, you’ll be able to scroll through the results right there without leaving the page you’re on. This is an interesting and odd choice if you ask me. With Google using Search suggestion chips in Android, it does make sense that the company is finding new ways to keep users from being torn away from the task at hand, but the side panel hardly seems to be the place for active or dynamic data like search results.
Instead, I view the side panel as a place that houses passive or static data – Reading list items and bookmarks are things you store there until you need them, click on them, and then potentially remove them. They’re yours to collect and keep. Search results do have the former action in common, but this data is generated on the spot, not collected or kept like the latter.
I suppose in some ways, you could argue that there is no distinction between dynamic and static data in this regard, so I can see their logic in combining Lens into the side panel. What do you think? Do you like the idea of this, or is the panel becoming too cluttered for you? We already have evidence that it’s going to house Shopping data in the near future too, so perhaps you’ll be able to toggle what appears there.