It looks like Microsoft has just preempted one of the much awaited features of Android Marshmallow. The software giant recently updated its Bing Search app to include Snapshots, a feature seen as a direct rival to Android 6.0's "Google Now On Tap."
Google previously explained that ist upcoming Google Now On Tap feature will allow users to search for relevant information based on context clues displayed on their device's screen. That service, however, can only be enjoyed once a device is running the soon-to-be released Android 6.0 Marshmallow OS.
Now, a similar service can already be enjoyed by Android users who have just updated their Bing app. Basically, the service runs in the background and will work once the user long-pressed the home button. Upon doing that, the contextual feature will "read" whatever is on the screen and will present various details about the topic along with several links that will lead to additional information.
Microsoft claims that all of these can be done without having to leave the app. In other words, Bing Snapshots is practically a floating Bing search window that displays contextual information together with a bunch of suggested links.
However, what Microsoft really tries to offer here is its new "knowledge and action graph API" for developers. The Snapshots feature of the updated Bing app works because of that tool. The Redmond-based company simply used its popular search app to manifest how it will function. Microsoft said that interested developers who want to integrate this feature can contact them for further details.
Moreover, Bing Snapshots will only start working once the user enabled Android's accessibility options in the Settings. It's definitely a fascinating improvement but one that is still far from perfect. We've tried using it to scan Instagram posts and news articles displayed on our smartphone screen. However, there are times that Snapshots returned a dizzying mix of details. It forces us to conclude that the results are still a hit-and-miss, at least for now.
It can be a really useful feature given that users don't have to switch to different apps to get more information. However, we can expect that Android 6.0 Marshmallow's Google Now On Tap would offer a much more comprehensive service. After all, Snapshots is just a little feature within a mobile app.
Aside from the option to try out Android M's look on their devices, users can now have a taste of how Google Now On Tap will work (sort of) by downloading Bing Search. The can get it for free from the Play Store and will be compatible on models running Android 4.0 or newer.
Microsoft has also shared the video below showing Bing's Snapshots feature in action.