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Tuesday, October 4th, 2011 technology  research  practice

A Technology Tip

  • Technology

Search by Image” is an amazing new search functionality that Google now has. And to be clear, this isn’t the same as Google’s image search (i.e., searching for an image using a string of text).

Search by Image lets you find other occurrences of an image on the web, as well as all sorts of other content from the web that’s related to a specific image. For example, search using a picture of your favourite band and you will see search results that might include similar images, webpages about the band, and even sites that included the same pictures.

I used it yesterday to confirm suspicions that a website referenced by an apparent fraudster was for a non-existent firm. A search using images of the lawyers who supposedly worked at the firm showed me that the photos were stock images that actually appeared on other sites on the web.

How to search by image

Search by Image is compatible with Chrome, Firefox 3.0+, Internet Explorer 8+ and Safari 5.0+. There are four ways to search by image:

  • Drag and drop: Drag and drop an image from the web or your computer into the search box on images.google.com
  • Upload an image: On images.google.com, click the camera icon, then select “Upload an image.” Select the image you want to use to start your search.
  • Copy and paste the URL for an image: Use this if you have an image on the web you’re curious about. Right-click the image to copy the URL. On images.google.com, click the camera icon, and “Paste image URL”.
  • Right-click an image on the web: To search by image even faster, download the Chrome or Firefox extension. With the extension installed, simply right-click an image on the web to search Google with that image
  • .

Search by Image is optimized to work well for content that is reasonably well described on the web. For this reason, you’ll likely get more relevant results for famous landmarks or paintings than you will for your personal images.

How it works

Google uses computer vision techniques to match your image to other images in the Google Images index and additional image collections. From those matches, it generates “best guess” text description of your image, as well as finding other images that have the same content as your search image.

The results page

When you search by image, your results will look different than your normal Images or Web results page. The biggest difference is that your results can include non-image results like webpages that seem relevant to the image that you searched for. The elements of your results page will change depending on your search and on the information that’s most relevant to that search.

Remember to try Search by Image next time you want to find more about a picture or painting.

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