Gboard may soon gain a little Google Lens magic to grab text from images

Gboard tiles on a Google Pixel 6
(Image credit: Namerah Saud Fatmi / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • An APK dive into Gboard's latest beta unearths a new "Scan text" feature, which resembles Google Lens' ability to highlight and copy text from images.
  • The beta gives users a chance to highlight any detected lines of text and insert them into the app they're currently in like Messages and others.
  • This is the second new feature for Gboard to appear in recent times, with the other involving generative AI's influence for correcting typos.

Google is working on a new feature that lets users grab a piece of text from the real world and pop it onto their smartphone.

Pointed out by 9to5Google during an APK deep dive, the company is in the process of developing a "Scan text" function for Gboard in its latest 13.6 beta version. The text scanning feature must be granted camera permissions before progressing. After doing so, the camera will take over the bottom portion of your device where your Android keyboard would normally exist.

Users will be given a "Take a photo of words to scan" prompt directly above the snapshot icon. Tapping once will let Gboard highlight a single line of text, with the option to extend or shorten the selected text.

Once highlighted, another pop-up will overlay the bottom of the camera, repeating what you've selected alongside an "insert" button. If you're in an app like Google Messages, the placement of your cursor will determine where the text is pasted. After popping in one segment of text, "Scan text" will remain open if you're looking to plug more in.

As 9to5 adds, taking a photo with "Scan text" doesn't save the image on your device — or anywhere at all. It appears to be a temporary interaction, where once you've copied all the text you care about, it's gone.

One thing of note is this new scanning ability uses the same optical character recognition (OCR) that Google Lens leverages to copy text from images. This was originally a feature that started on the web version of Photos before moving onto other devices, and Google products, sometime after.

It's unclear when Google plans on rolling out "Scan text" as its beta appearance is fairly new.

However, another feature for Gboard was also spotted in beta back in September, which is getting AI involved to help correct our typos. The function is simply called "Proofread with Gboard" and will underline segments of text or words that are either misspelled or need some grammatical changes.

Additionally, Google seems to have plans for a "Fix it" option to appear in Gboard's top row of suggested words that can automatically fix errors without multiple manual inputs from the user.

Nickolas Diaz
News Writer

Nickolas is always excited about tech and getting his hands on it. Writing for him can vary from delivering the latest tech story to scribbling in his journal. When Nickolas isn't hitting a story, he's often grinding away at a game or chilling with a book in his hand.