Ever wanted to search for images using an image? I often find images that are out of context online and want to know where they originated. Sometimes I take a picture of a weird bug and want to know what it is, and sometimes I just want to put in a favorite image and see what the algorithm finds that it thinks is similar.
From a processing standpoint, the task is monumental. We take so many social and stylistic cues from an image. I can’t imagine trying to tech a program to find what some random person on the internet is looking for in the pile of billions of images that is the web, but Google has decided to take it on.
Let’s give it a challenge and see if it panics!
First, go to Google’s image search page. Then drag an image into the search bar. That simple. I’m using Kevin Sloan’s awesome image above to see what we can find.
Well, it still needs work clearly, but I’m actually rather impressed. First of all, it did nearly instantly find me a ton of sources with the same image, so if you are using it that way, it gets an A+. The above pictures came from a section it refers to as ‘visually similar images’. What impresses me is how many completely unrelated but undeniably similar compositional elements it found. The search engine isn’t differentiating objects like we would, as flamingo and monkey, which on the one hand is unsurprising, but on the other, I’m a little shocked that not a single similar image popped up on the front page with either a flamingo or a monkey in them. It instead seems to have focused on composition, pattern, and color.
Take the picture of the woman with her children in the upper right; she is wearing a flamingo colored shirt, the cup in her hand is its head. There is a cloudy sky, trees on the horizon, the shadow on the lawn gives us the plateau, the monkey is seen in her sunglasses, and its leg in the same position as her daughter (held). Her shorts are the sky under the flamingo, and perhaps best of all, the stovepipe as monkey tail.
I can’t wait to play with this some more. I sense a multitude of new memes coming from this, with every famous image in history having a page of doppelgangers.