Google image search gets a 'swirl'

Nov 17, 2009
Google Labs on Tuesday brought more focus to finding pictures online, adding a "Swirl" tool that automatically groups similar images into categories presented on results pages.

Google Labs on Tuesday brought more focus to finding pictures online, adding a "Swirl" tool that automatically groups similar images into categories presented on results pages.

"What Image Swirl does is it really organizes automatically image search results into groups and sub-groups," product manager Aparna Chennapragada told AFP.

"It's not just the face, the color, the visual features of the images; we look inside the image and ask how they relate to each other on a pixel level."

Swirl uses algorithms, metadata, and facial recognition software to distinguish between structures, places, people, and even time of day in digital images.

For example, an Image Swirl search using the keyword "Washington" triggers a results page with pictures packed into subsets including the White House, former president George Washington, and actor Denzel Washington.

Clicking on any of the subgroups opens a window into additional "sub-clusters" of pictures categorized by factors such as angle, time of day, and whether an image is a close-up or a panorama.

Online image search has traditionally delivered results pages lined with thumbnail pictures that people sift through individually.

"As humans we can easily tell which images should be grouped together by looking at them," sad Google software engineer Yushi Jing, who worked on Image Swirl underlying technology.

"The real question is can we train computer algorithms to identify common features in images and then categorize them. It's not perfect. We may have mistakes, but we hope to improve this system as we move forward."

People can dabble with Image Swirl at Google Labs. Feedback will be used to improve the tool with the ultimate objective being to one day incorporate it in the California Internet giant's public .

"We are committed to how we look at and understand and organize it for our users," Chennapragada said. "This is the holy grail of computer vision."

Google launched image search in 2001 and later added a "similar images" feature to hone-in picture hunts.

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers develop new image-recognition software

May 21, 2008

It takes surprisingly few pixels of information to be able to identify the subject of an image, a team led by an MIT researcher has found. The discovery could lead to great advances in the automated identification ...

Recommended for you

LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

Apr 18, 2014

The career-focused social network LinkedIn announced Friday it has 300 million members, with more than half the total outside the United States.

Researchers uncover likely creator of Bitcoin

Apr 18, 2014

The primary author of the celebrated Bitcoin paper, and therefore probable creator of Bitcoin, is most likely Nick Szabo, a blogger and former George Washington University law professor, according to students ...

White House updating online privacy policy

Apr 18, 2014

A new Obama administration privacy policy out Friday explains how the government will gather the user data of online visitors to WhiteHouse.gov, mobile apps and social media sites. It also clarifies that ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

SmartK8
not rated yet Nov 18, 2009
It still has some pixel-related problems. Because when I tried to search for Obama, it came alright. Then I clicked a second picture in the results, to find the similar images and it found Mohammed Atta. :/ Otherwise kudos. I'm using this feature for icon search and it's the best, so far.

More news stories

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

A homemade solar lamp for developing countries

(Phys.org) —The solar lamp developed by the start-up LEDsafari is a more effective, safer, and less expensive form of illumination than the traditional oil lamp currently used by more than one billion people ...

Treating depression in Parkinson's patients

A group of scientists from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has found interesting new information in a study on depression and neuropsychological function in Parkinson's ...