Replicating the experience of reading a comic on a mobile device isn’t easy. Google Play Books improved things last year with an update that offered a scrolling landscape layout when readers flipped devices on their sides. But now a new feature could see digital comics become as enjoyable to read as their physical counterparts.
At San Diego Comic-Con, which runs until this Sunday, Google just revealed Bubble Zoom. In what must be one of the best uses of machine learning, the system is able to detect speech bubbles in comics and increase their size.
Previously, if a speech bubble was too small to read clearly – often a problem on mobile devices with smaller screens – you would have to enlarge them using the traditional two-fingered zoom function, which tends to detract from the overall experience and occasionally causes readers to lose their place in the panels.
With Bubble Zoom, which utilizes the same image recognition technology used to pick out objects in photos, the speech bubbles are blown up when you tap on the screen without zooming in on the entire page. Moreover, the feature is made easier to use when holding a device in one hand by letting readers switch through the bubbles with the volume buttons.
Bubble zoom will be available for the latest version of the Google Play Books app for Android. It’s available as a technical preview with all supported Marvel and DC collections, and Google plans to collect user feedback before making it available on every digital comic and manga.