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Gboard Tests 'Scan Text' Feature to Insert Text from Captured Images: How it Works

Gboard — Google’s keyboard app for smartphones — is picking up a useful new feature that will make it easier for you to insert text, using your smartphone’s camera. The latest version of the keyboard app adds support for a new “Scan Text” mode that uses optical character recognition (OCR) technology to recognise text and enter it into a text field. A similar feature to scan and insert text is also available on iPhone models running on iOS 15.4 or newer versions.

An image of the feature shared on X (formerly Twitter) by Mishaal Rahman shows how the new Gboard feature works. Using your smartphone’s rear camera, Google’s keyboard app will let you take an image of text — this can be a document, a screen or an object with words on it — and then uses OCR technology to extract the text and insert it into your current app.

In order for the feature to work, you’ll need to update the Gboard app on your Android phone to version 13.9, which is currently in beta. According to Rahman, users have claimed that the feature is now rolling out, but Gadgets 360 staff members were unable to try the feature on multiple Android smartphones — so you might have to wait until it is officially announced by the company.

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When the Scan Text feature is available on your smartphone, it should be listed alongside other features like Translate, Sticker, One-handed, and Theme. The keyboard will prompt you to grant it access to the camera permission, after which you can begin to use the feature.

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You can point your phone’s camera at some text and tap on the capture button once it is inside the half-screen viewfinder. You can then select the text that is recognised using OCR and insert it in your current app — this image is deleted after the text is inserted. You can also move it to the toolbar that appears on top of the keyboard, if you plan to use it often.

The arrival of the feature on Android comes two years after Apple brought a similar feature to iOS 15.4, allowing users to point their phone at text to add it to the Notes app and text fields in other apps. It lets users automatically select text using their iPhone camera — without capturing an image — and displays the text to be inserted as it updates in real-time. 

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If the feature is yet to be enabled on your smartphone, you can also open the Google Lens app and point your camera at some text in order to extract text, copy, and paste it into another app. Adding the feature to Gboard will simplify this process, by eliminating the need to open the Lens app.

Is the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 the best foldable phone you can buy in India right now? We discuss the company’s new clamshell-style foldable handset on the latest episode of Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.
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