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Google Lens is directly integrated in Google's Pixel 3

Google's augmented-reality tool can work instantly in the phone's camera, even offline without a data connection.

Point Google Lens at a picture of sunglasses, and it'll try to help you find a pair online.
Point Google Lens at a picture of sunglasses, and it'll try to help you find a pair online.
Google; screenshot by CNET

The Google Lens augmented-reality tool is directly integrated into Google's new Pixel 3 phone, Google said Tuesday at a launch event for several new products. Lens unlocks previously announced capabilities like Style Search, which identifies products online that're similar to the one you're pointing your phone's camera at, or a feature that gives you the option of having your phone autodial a number in an ad when you snap a picture of it.

Now playing: Watch this: Google shows off the Pixel 3 and PIxel 3 XL

Lens also works offline without a data connection, the company said.

Google Lens is a visual search tool that uses your phone's camera to let you find more information on real world objects. Google first announced the tool two years ago, and initially released it last year, exclusively with the Pixel 2 phone.

Lens isn't an app, but a tool Google is embedding into its other services. For example, in Google Maps, you can use Lens to help orient you while using walking navigation. Google Lens also lets you point your phone at a book to see background on the author, along with reviews and info on where to buy it. Point Lens at a storefront, and you'll see business information and reviews. Point it at a flower, and you can tell what species it is.

The Google launch event arrives as the search giant has become more serious about its hardware business. Three years ago, the company unveiled its first Pixel Phone and Google Home smart speaker. Since then, Google has invested more heavily in its "Made by Google" device lineup, which includes everything from virtual reality headsets to video and audio streaming devices.

The goal is to compete with AppleSamsung and Amazon to get its gadgets into your pocket and home. 

Specifically, Google has been pushing its Assistant software, a digital helper akin to Amazon's Alexa or Apple's Siri, in a quest to meet users -- and their data -- everywhere in their daily lives. In May, Google announced that 500 million devices have shipped globally with the Assistant on them, including speakers, phones and TVs. The company also said the Assistant now partners with 5,000 household connected devices, up from 1,500 in January.

In 2016, Google tapped Rick Osterloh, a former Motorola executive, to lead a dedicated team focused on creating consumer devices. Last year, Google paid $1 billion to bulk up its hardware engineering ranks through a deal with Chinese manufacturer HTC.

Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL: What you need to know about Google's new smartphones.

Google's Oct. 9 event: Pixel 3, new Chromecast, Pixel Slate and more.