Google Chrome on Android appears to be getting a new text selection feature that enables the browser to define words with a tap. That's based on recent reports highlighting the incoming feature, which appears to be rolling out slowly now.
As implied, the feature centers around another capability that already exists in Chrome for Android. Namely, as the browser currently works, users can highlight text and then drag up on a card that appears at the bottom of the UI. That card contains a wealth of information drawn from a Google search for the selected words.
Now, Chrome also appears to be showing a new card at the bottom. That contains a definition for any word selected on the page. A pronunciation guide is included in that as well. Long-pressing on a term or word to select it, with the change in place, reverts to the previously-described search results. Pulling up on the definition provides a full knowledge graph for the searched term.
That means that users can now get a whole lot of information for words with very little action, helping them to understand the full context of the text better.
This is also in beta but is a lot more functional there
This feature also appears to be alive and well in Chrome Beta for Android — presently on version 84. But additional features can be found on that platform as well. And those will undeniably make tap-to-search more functional and helpful.
Under testing, the feature on Chrome Beta did not solely search out definitions for words. Attempting to perform a search to define the word "physicist" in one article, for example, it pulled forward the surrounding terms too. In this case, that was one mathematician in particular — as shown in the sample images below.
From there, the card shifted from defining the term to laying out public information about the scientist in question.
At first glance, that may seem like an arbitrary change. But this will help end-users more readily find out about people referenced or implicated in a given news piece. Or any other writing. That could, in turn, help users better understand where information is coming from and possibly even help users determine the veracity of the information.
For example, an article about science may reference one or two scientists, in particular. Giving users the ability to click their names and determine their occupation and other information could help users discover whether they are experts in the relevant field. That would, in effect, allow users to determine whether they have the requisite expertise to have made any claims attributed to them.
If and when Google does release the feature, that would stack nicely atop other fact-checking-related features it has been rolling out.
When will Google Chrome define words for you?
As hinted above, this is essentially a feature under testing for the time being. So not every user is going to see Chrome for Android define words on-tap right now. Instead, the feature looks to be directly linked to an experimental setting found in the "chrome://flags" URL-based hidden settings menu. It can be found there via a simple search for the term "Contextual Search definitions."
Given the circumstances of the feature's discovery, it isn't immediately clear when it will roll out more widely either. It may be the case that Google plans to roll out both beta features here at the same time. Or it might choose to launch one before the other. In any case, this will make Google's browser stand out just a bit more from other apps on the platform when it does finally arrive.