Microsoft has launched a new “visual search” function for Bing which lets users snap a picture of something with their phone to search for it online. The feature looks very similar to Google Lens and offerings we’ve seen from third-parties, leveraging the power of AI to perform quick and accurate object recognition on photos.
The new visual search is available in a range of apps, including the standalone Bing app on iOS and Android; Microsoft Launcher on Android; Microsoft Edge on Android, and coming soon to Edge on iOS. You can use it to search for things like breeds of dogs, famous landmarks, and even items of clothing.
The app will try to identify what it sees and, in the case of consumer goods, find places to buy them online.
“Sometimes, it is almost impossible to describe what you want to search for using words,” said Microsoft’s product lead for Bing Images, Vince Leung, in a blog post.
Visual search is quickly becoming a commodity product for big tech companies like Google and Microsoft, but the feature can sometimes be a let-down in real life usage.
It’s bound to improve, though, as firms catalogue more data and speed up their machine learning algorithms.
Before we know it, the world around us will be as searchable as a URL.
It’s been a packed month at our Bluetooth speakers lab, with 10 new models reviewed. There’s something for everyone, with a wide range of portable and home speakers, and prices ranging from GBP45 to GBP349 – plus one new Best Buy. It’s been a bumpy ride, though, with a whole range of scores and two that narrowly avoid being Don’t Buys.
And the results further prove that there’s little correlation between good sound and how much you spend, with one of the more expensive speakers from a big brand getting one of the lowest scores, and a surprise or two at the cheaper end as well. We’ve reviewed home speakers from top brands including Ikea, JBL and LG, plus portable speakers from Bang & Olufsen and Denon. One of the headline launches comes from Ikea, which enters the market with two well-priced Bluetooth speakers, both called Eneby, which will look the part in any home.
And the momentum behind smart speakers continues with LG’s WK7 ThinQ, which you can control with your voice using Google Assistant. It enters an increasingly crowded market, with rivals including the Amazon Echo, Google Home, Sonos One and Apple HomePod jostling for space, although it has beaten its arch-rival Samsung to launch. Aiming at the higher end for those looking for quality audio, could the LG WK7 ThinQ smart speaker be the answer to the Apple HomePod for Android phone users?
LG WK7 ThinQ Smart Speaker, GBP199
LG’s new flagship smart speaker uses Google Assistant to allow you to control your music hands-free using only your voice. You can also ask it questions, such as what the weather forecast is, and perform actions such as creating a virtual shopping list.
The sound has been tuned by British audio specialist Meridian Audio, a rival of Dolby, and the speaker has Chromecast built in, allowing you to connect it to other Chromecast-enabled speakers for a multiroom setup. But how does it sound? Our discerning panel of music industry professionals put this speaker through its paces.
Many Google Assistant speakers have performed poorly in our tests. Find out whether this is an exception, and if it’s the ideal speaker for Android and iPhone users alike, in our expert LG WK7 ThinQ Smart Speaker review.
IKEA Eneby (large), GBP80
They look like the ideal companions to suit your room decor and bring sound to your home, with a minimalist fabric frontage and a simple rotary-dial control. We’ve also reviewed another speaker with a similar design, from Urbanears, further down.
Marley Get Together Mini, GBP100
Marley is a brand rapidly growing in popularity, and its Get Together Mini certainly stands out from the crowd – not simply for its head-turning looks. This surprisingly compact bench-style Bluetooth speaker is made from bamboo and other materials Marley claims are ‘mindfully sourced’, including fabric weaved from recycled materials.
Its 30cm width makes it a more portable package than its larger Get Together brother, and the company pitches it as the ideal pairing for its Marley Stir It Up turntable. But, most importantly, what’s the sound quality like? With Marley’s high street presence growing, see what our experts thought of this rising player on the speaker scene in our comprehensive Marley Get Together Mini review.
Denon Envaya (DSB250BT), GBP170
Both come with the same highly convenient IP67 rating, which means they’re waterproof and dustproof, and can survive being completely submerged in one metre of water for 30 minutes. So you don’t have to worry if the heavens begin to break – or you drop it in the sink. But is the sound as strong as the durable deisgn?
JBL Link 300, GBP250
The Link 300 Bluetooth speaker from popular brand JBL is aimed at those looking to fill bigger spaces with sound than the JBL Link 10 and JBL Link 20 can manage. Sporting a more traditional speaker design with curved edges, the high-powered Link 300 has Google Assistant built in for hands-free voice control, and Chromecast so you can link it with other Chromecast-enabled speakers. Music, radio and podcasts are all at your command with built-in Spotify support (with a subscription), and many other radio and music services as well.
Urbanears Stammen, GBP219
For those looking for a speaker that fits the decor of the room but is more premium than Ikea’s offering, the Stammen offers a wider range of features to control your sound, plus radio as well, with the ability to save seven of your favourite stations or music playlists for quick access. In fact, it’s a very similar size to the smaller Ikea Eneby, with a front that’s roughly 20cm square, although it can also be oriented with its shorter 14cm side facing forwards. It has two rotary dials on the top – and, as Urbanears says, there’s no smartphone app ‘twiddling’ in sight.
Even more wireless speakers on test
- ^ Amazon Echo (www.which.co.uk)
- ^ Google Home (www.which.co.uk)
- ^ Sonos One (www.which.co.uk)
- ^ Apple HomePod (www.which.co.uk)
- ^ Best Buy speakers (www.which.co.uk)
- ^ LG WK7 ThinQ Smart Speaker review (www.which.co.uk)
- ^ large Ikea Eneby (www.which.co.uk)
- ^ small Ikea Eneby (www.which.co.uk)
- ^ Marley Stir It Up (www.which.co.uk)
- ^ Marley Get Together Mini review (www.which.co.uk)
- ^ Denon Envaya Mini (www.which.co.uk)
- ^ Denon Envaya (DSB250BT) review (www.which.co.uk)
- ^ JBL Link 10 (www.which.co.uk)
- ^ JBL Link 20 (www.which.co.uk)
- ^ JBL Link 300 review (www.which.co.uk)
- ^ Urbanears Lotsen (www.which.co.uk)
- ^ Urbanears Baggen (www.which.co.uk)
- ^ Urbanears Stammen review (www.which.co.uk)
- ^ B&O Beoplay P6 (www.which.co.uk)
- ^ Tibo Sphere 4 (www.which.co.uk)
- ^ wireless speaker reviews (www.which.co.uk)
Apple has announced a new update to music-making app GarageBand that adds loads of new sounds, loops, and instruments. As part of the update, Artist Lessons, which were previously £4.99 each, will now be free and included as part of Basic Lessons within the app.
As part of GarageBand 10.3, the app is introducing two new drummers that play roots and jazz-influenced brush styles, 1,000 new electronic and urban loops in genres like future bass and chill rap, and 400 animal, machine, and voice sound effects. There are also three new traditional Chinese and Japanese instruments: the Guzheng, Koto, and Taiko drums. (Sounds from these instruments were introduced as loops as early as 2016, and were included as options within GarageBand’s Sound Library last year.)
Artist Lessons, which were previously £4.99, are now also free.
Apple first introduced Artist Lessons in 2009 as a way for users to learn popular songs on piano and guitar via the artists who actually made them.
Lessons from Death Cab for Cutie, Rush, Sarah McLachlan, Sting, John Legend, Fall Out Boy and more are now included as part of Basic Lessons in GarageBand.
Also, Artist Lessons were previously only available in 20 countries, but are now accessible to all users in over 150 countries.