Google Image Search has a nifty feature that was added a couple of months ago, but it’s not so easy to find. If you restrict the results to a site and click “similar” next to one of the images, Google will only show similar images from that site. For example, if you search for [paris site:wikipedia.org] and click “similar” next to a photo of the Eiffel Tour, Google will show pictures of the Eiffel Tour and other similar monuments from Paris, but only if they are included in a Wikipedia page.
It’s a great way to explore a site and group related images when it’s difficult to type a precise query. The top results provided by the Similar Images feature are much better than the results for [monuments in Paris site:wikipedia.org], where you can find maps, flags, logos.
It’s important to note that Google Image Search’s site: operator no longer takes into account the URL of the image, so if a blog includes an image from Flickr, you’ll still be able to find the image when you restrict the image results to the blog’s domain or subdomain. “In the past, the [site:] operator filtered based on the image URL, not based on the URL of web pages linking to the images. Now, the operator will run your search over web sites that include images, no matter where the images themselves are hosted, which removes a lot of noise from your results and gives you more control over what you’re searching for.”
Google acquired Plink, a small startup that developed Plink Art, an Android application that lets you identify paintings using your mobile phone’s camera. Plink Art was one of the winners of the Android Developer Challenge 2. You can find the application in Android’s market: just search for [Plink Art].
“The coolest feature of Plink Art is instant art identification. Just snap a photo and if the painting is in our database our visual search system will recognize it and tell you all about it. Currently Plink knows about tens of thousands of famous paintings,” explains Plink’s website.
I tried the application on my Nexus One by taking photos of Google Image Search results, but the results were terrible. Google Goggles found much better results for the same images.
The two Plink co-founders and only employees will work to improve Google Goggles, a visual search tool that already lets you find books, places and artwork. From Plink’s blog:
“We started Plink to bring the power of visual search to everyone, and we’re delighted to be taking a big step towards that goal today. Google has already shown that it’s serious about investing in this space with Google Goggles, and for the Plink team the opportunity to take our algorithms to Google-scale was just too exciting to pass up. The visual search engines of today can do some pretty cool things, but they still have a long long way to go. We’re looking forward to helping the Goggles team build a visual search engine that works not just for paintings or book covers, but for everything you see around you. There are beautiful things to be done with computer vision – it’s going to be a lot of fun!”