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Google just made reading comics on smartphones a lot easier

At San Diego Comic-Con, the search giant unveils a feature called Bubble Zoom, which enlarges speech bubbles with the push of a button.

Google's software automatically detects speech bubbles.

Google

It's not exactly the ideal reading experience: Opening up a digital comic book on your smartphone or tablet and having to zoom in on different parts of the page to read what each character is saying.

Google wants to change that. At San Diego Comic-Con on Thursday, the internet giant unveiled a new feature for Google Play Books that automatically enlarges speech bubbles when you push the volume control buttons on your phone or tablet.

The company made the announcement alongside Marvel and DC Comics on their respective stages at the massive fan convention, which attracts more than 130,000 attendees to San Diego's bay front.

Google touts "machine learning" as the tech behind the new feature. The software automatically recognizes speech bubbles and panels on the page so it can modify the way they look.

"We can detect shapes and objects and images -- we're very good at this," Brady Duga, a software engineer for Google Play Books, said in a video introducing the feature. "This is basically looking at a rich visual scene and extracting important information."

Other comic book apps offer different solutions for packing an entire comic page onto smaller screens. For example, Comixology, owned by Amazon, has a feature called "guided view," which presents a comic page panel by panel. But Google thinks parsing up a page takes away from the overall experience. Comixology didn't respond to a request for comment about its format for presenting comic pages.

Right now, Google is offering only a preview of Bubble Zoom for the Google Play Books app on Android devices. It's also available only in English for Marvel and DC comics at the moment.

As part of the announcement, Google said it's selling select comics from Marvel and DC on the Google Play Books app for half off until July 24 with the promo code SDCC2016.