Latest Google image search innovation

Recently a Google representative visited the PACA 2009 conference to talk about Visual search with Imense. Although Google has watched Imense carefully it had not had much contact with the Stock Photography industry. In the meantime it has been gradually improving its image search capabilies. First it launched an improved version of their visual search and now it has put their experimental Google  Image Swirl in Google labs. It builds on new computer vision research to cluster similar images into representative groups in a “fun, exploratory interface.” Innovations on image search are happening ever more frequently and for Stock Photography companies and users alike these developments are significant indications on how images will be found in the future.

Her’s an example from the Google blog:  If you search on Image Swirl for [washington], you’ll see 12 image thumbnails including President Washington, the Washington Monument, a map of Washington D.C. and the Capitol Building:

Once you find the group of images you’re interested in, you can click on the thumbnail and a cluster of images will “swirl” into view. For example, here’s what you’ll see if you click the image of the Washington Monument:

You can then further explore additional sub-groups within any cluster. The interface may look familiar to those of you who have tried Google’s Wonder Wheel available in the Search Options panel, which enables you to explore related search queries.

Image Swirl expands on technologies developed for Similar Images and Picasa Face Recognition to discern how images should be grouped together and build hierarchies out of these groups. Each thumbnail on the initial results page represents an algorithmically-determined representative group of images with similar appearance and meaning. These aren’t just the most relevant images — they are the most relevant groups of images.

Image Swirl currently works for more than 200,000 queries and we plan to include more queries in the future. Available queries will auto-complete as you start to type in the search box, similar to Google Suggest.

You can try out Google Image Swirl in Google Labs today. The feature is experimental and the underlying technology is a work in progress, so please share your feedback and let us know how we can make it more useful. via Official Google Blog.

Marco | Editor

Editor at large and founder of a bunch of stockphoto businesses