Image Search

The use of search engines in locating information has become so central to our daily lives that it is hard to imagine a world where one cannot simply “google” driving directions just before heading out to the car.

This availability of information, unprecedented in human history, is still a new concept, yet it has revolutionized the way we live, even in our humdrum, day-to-day activities. Need a new recipe in time for dinner? Conduct a search (and forward it to!). Forgot your anniversary and need a gift by tomorrow morning? Piece of cake. It’s become second nature to not only snatch instantaneous solutions from the Internet, but to trust that they will be there. Just because we’ve so readily accepted search doesn’t mean anyone thinks it’s fully developed. I offer only your typical financial headlines: Google does this, Yahoo does that, Exxon searches for oil – everybody searches! Tech advances beget tech advances and search is still a work in progress, a particularly interesting work in progress. The concept of search need not even be limited to alphabetical means. Microsoft is firing imaginations with image search…for more imagery. Somewhere in Washington State (I think) teams of cyber savants have been taking steps toward incorporating this imagery hunt functionality into the search engine. The goal is to allow users to input an image file as the search parameter in order to return associated image results.

While the technical process admittedly remains mysterious to those of us not actually working on it, its aim of a searchable database free from the ambiguity of language is a beautiful notion, even if it’s not the end all of search itself.

Let’s say that you were interested in researching a fancy home furnishing company called “Hammer and Co.”. You’d open up your web browser and enter the name in the search bar on Google, right? Your Search Engine Result Pages (SERP) will show hundreds of results…M.C. Hammer, tools, and the like. There will be some, if not lots of, sifting to do. But, were you able to input an image of Hammer Son’s distinctive purple tulip logo in the search field, you may get a glimpse of Hammer’s lovely wormwood designs. Heavenly. Engines utilizing “image search” will distinguish content, spatial qualities, pixel dimensions and placement, the size of images, and various other factors in its comparison. While the technology is not quite ready to be unveiled for general use, Microsoft’s purchase of Vexcel, a specialist in imagery, remote sensing and «photogrammetry» does bolster support for the theory that we are not far off from being able to take a photo of a stranger with a camera-phone and running an internet-wide search for that person instantly. It seems the internet cannot be further leveraged to the end of radical technological advancement and social change, it is. Web 2.0 expands infinitely outward into a world of possibilities that need only be imagined to become true.