SLIDESHOW

Ten cool searches to try with Google's Now on Tap

Google's all-seeing eye can pull up some surprising finds when you put Now on Tap to work.

google now on tap
Credit: Derek Walter
Now on tap keeps getting better

Google Now on Tap came in with a roar, but after the initial excitement, it didn't find a place in the day-to-day use of my phone.

While it was nice to be able to do a rapid-fire Google search from any screen, it usually didn’t produce the kind of “wow” moments to make me a regular user, unlike when I first discovered Google Now.

Fortunately, that’s changing. Some behind-the-scenes updates and more up-front features have turned Now on Tap into an essential part of how I use Android. It’s become so ingrained that I often have that, “oh right, I can’t do that” moment when using iOS or a desktop PC.

If you’re a Now on Tap newbie and would like to know more about what can be discovered, here’s a breakdown of some of the most interesting discoveries. As with most Google searches, the more you experiment and and try it out in new settings, the better your experience will be.

now on tap shopping
Shopping

There's no such thing as too much information when you're doing product research. Now on tap brings a lot here, as you can fire it up after you Google a term to get links to a Google shopping search, YouTube videos, and social media profiles.

In particular, it's a big help after you Google the name of a product or find something you want while reading in a browser, as Google's dedicated shopping sub-scection is rather useful at finding you some deals. So hold down that home button next time you come across something that you want to find out whether or not the price is right.

now on tap sports
Sports on TV

Google Now already does a pretty good job with sports, but how about putting it to use while you're actually watching a game? Just point your camera at the screen and then launch Now on tap so Google can scan what is sees through the lens. 

The results are going to depend not only on who's playing but what's on the screen, as I discovered recently. I was watching an MLS soccer game and got a Google now card for the league, but Now on Tap also picked up the score between the Cubs and Marlins on the bottom ticker. It also spotted the Ethiad Airways logo on players' uniforms. It's another sign that you'll never quite know what shows up unless you try it out.

phantom manor
Travel photos

So where exactly was that vacation photo taken? Google Now on tap may know. The image recognition technology is pretty great in this regard, as it spotted the Phantom Manor from Disneyland Paris (the equivalent of the Haunted Mansion) from my camera roll.

Yet other places I tried this one didn't work out so well, with other venues not recognized. Sometimes, Now on Tap would focus on the text found in the picture itself, as my pictures from Lenovo TechWorld brought up a lot of details about the technology company instead of The Masonic in San Francisco, where the event was recently held.

charging bull
Statues

If you don’t know the story behind the Charging Bull statue on Wall Street, now you do. This is a great way to answer the inevitable, “What’s that?” question that comes up when you travel or are looking through your past images.

My favorite feature is how Now on tap will link right to Street View, so you can get an up-close-and-personal view of what’s nearby, which can help you if you’re standing right there or trying to remember some of the particulars of a past trip. 

now on tap news
News articles

When you're reading a news story, it's easy to spot a topic that you want to know more about. Just press and hold the home button to let Now on tap do the searching for you. It will pull content from the article, trying to guess what's most worth searching. I've come to rely on this a lot, as it saves you a few steps from having to open a new tab and perform a search or copy and paste from the first article.

If there's a particular term you want to explore, then touch the finger icon at the bottom of the screen and highlight the text you want to look up. It's a very helpful tool, and of course lets Google help you perform a ton of more searches.

now on tap weather
The weather (with a little extra)

Maybe you've checked in on the weather for where you live or another favorite city, and decided that it's time to find out what's up with the news there. Fire up Now on Tap, and you'll get a Google search and possibly some articles for that particular locale. 

This worked a lot better in larger cities, as you can imagine, but it's worth even for what you might turn up by performing a Google search of that area. This is one tool that could definitely improve, with perhaps additional results options or weather suggestions when you launch Now on tap. 

now on tap books
Books

Reading can bring up a lot of questions. Now on Tap can help answer them, or at least point you in the right direction. It works in surprising ways, recognizing comic book characters and other relevant information with just one scan of a page. Same goes with non-fiction books or literature, as you may be able to get a review, author information, or details about one of the historical figures or characters

There's something to be said about this being another place where distraction can creep in to a focused activity, but with the right level of self-control Now on tap is a welcome addition here.

now on tap contact
Setting up dinner

Let's say you're chatting with someone about weekend plans, and you're the one tasked to set up the restaurant reservations. With a Now on Tap search, you might come up with the phone number or web site right away.

It's like a first step to the Google assistant promised with Allo, which puts Google search right inside of your conversation. It would be even more helpful if such searches could include one-tap access to start the call or a link to an app like OpenTable for a quick reservation.

now on tap word lookup
Rapid word lookup

No matter how large your vocabulary, there's bound to be a time when you come across a word you don't know. Chrome lets you do an instant Google search, but that option isn't always available in every app. 

Let Now on Tap help you out here. Once you lauch it, you can touch the hand icon and then select a specific word or phrase. You'll then get a Now on tap search that will launch different cards based on the term. You may get news, Wikipedia links, or even searches within other apps (I've found this part to be the most inconsistent, with some of them not working). 

It's a great way to do a quick check of a term, so definitely give it a try.

now on tap objects
Cats, coffee, and more

Ultimately Google Now on Tap, particularly at this stage, is about experimentation.

That's what I did in pointing the camera at my cat, a Starbucks iced coffee cup, and other objects. Sometimes you get nothing, other times you'll be impressed at what Google is able to recognize. That really sums up where Now on Tap is right now. Allow it to delight you with some unusual discoveries, but it's not completely predictable in how it's going to act. Of course, your friends, family, and pets may need to be wary as you start pointing your phone at everything to see what Google can find.