Microsoft Adds Lasso Gesture to iPad for Bing Searches

Microsoft released a new version of Bing for iPad that includes a new gesture the company says makes it easier to search. Called the Lasso, the technique allows users to perform a new search on a webpage from within the Bing app itself, a process Microsoft says will save up to seven steps from Apple’s own cut-and-paste command in iOS.

“From our research,” Microsoft wrote in a blog post announcing the new version of Bing for iPad, “we know that many searches are inspired by things people see on the web. Today, it can be somewhat painful to search on a tablet when you’re engaged in reading something; just copying and pasting pieces of text from a webpage to a search box can take up to nine steps on the iPad. With Lasso you can circle and search in just two steps.”

The company offered this illustration of how Lasso works — it’s taken from an overlay that slides out over a webpage in the Bing app.

Lasso Illustration

Lasso explanation from Bing for iPad

If you look at the illustration, you might think that you use Lasso by literally drawing a circle with your finger around something you want to search for.

In reality, it works like this: Once you’ve performed a search on Bing and tapped on one of the results to view the webpage, there’s a console of commands at the top of the page. One of them is a stylized magnifying glass with an outline of the lens, as you can see highlighted in the screenshot below, which is the Lasso tool.

The Lasso Tool

The Lasso tool is highlighted in this screenshot

If you tap the Lasso tool, Bing for iPad puts an overlay over your webpage. Now, you can tap the screen and drag your finger across the new term you want to search for. Like the Elliptical Marquee tool in Photoshop, the circle is made when you click (or tap in this case). Then, when you drag your finger in any direction, the circle expands.

Lasso Selection

A Lasso Selection

Take your finger off the screen and Bing for iPad makes an intelligent guess as to what you were trying to select. In this case, the app correctly chose “participating” as our new search.

In our brief tests, the tool was very imprecise when it came to drawing the actual circle, but it was fairly smart at grabbing the entire word if only part of it was selected during the Lassoing.

The question is whether or not Microsoft will introduce this in other OSes, for instance Windows Phone 7 or whatever media tablet OS the company eventually brings to market. The company has an ideal place to experiment with new gestures and commands on iOS and Android while it continues to work on its own product.

In its first release, however, the Lasso tool in Bing for iPad was a little wonky in our tests. If you want to try it for yourself, Bing for iPad is a free app, and the new version is available now. There are other new features in this release, too, such as an improved movie listing layout and the ability to swipe through up to six of your last Bing searches.