Google's Bubble Zoom Lets You Read Comics Without Squinting

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Comic book fans know that constant panning and zooming makes reading comics on mobile devices a tiresome chore. Using machine learning, Google came up with a solution.

Enter Bubble Zoom, a new Android feature that recognizes speech bubbles in comics that you read on tablets or smartphones. It allows you to enlarge the bubbles one tap at a time, so you can see the entire page artwork and still follow the storyline without squinting.

Announced today at the San Diego Comic-Con, Bubble Zoom is rolling out today on the latest version of the Google Play Books app for Android. Google says its goal is to "eventually bring Bubble Zoom to all the comics and manga ever made."

For now, it's available on the entire collection of Marvel and DC Comics volumes for sale in the Google Play store; if you don't have any of those, Google is offering a 50 percent discount for purchases made before July 24.

Although Bubble Zoom is a fun feature that will make reading comics easier, the underlying technology behind it—the artificial intelligence algorithms that identify the elements on a printed page—could be useful far beyond the realm of superheroes and graphic novels.

That's because Google has digitized a sizeable portion of all the printed material the world has ever created. Although a decade-long court battle raged over whether or not that digitization is legal (spoiler alert: it is), Google now has a vast collection with which to train and apply its machine learning algorithms. From enlarging reaction equations in chemistry textbooks to scanning a musical score for notes that are out of a Broadway star's range, the applications are limitless.

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