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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

New Google Labs Experiments: Similar Images, and Google News Timeline

Google released two experiments into their newly structured Google Labs: Similar Images, and Google News Timeline.

The one release, Similar Images, is a highly useful image comparison engine. It’s like Google News with an exception: some pics have a link below them reading “similar images”. Click on it, and you’ll get to images which look similar or somewhat similar.

According to certain information, even Google themselves once had such a feature live already. In 2005, the following comment was posted on Slashdot – if you know more about this, please leave a comment, I’m not sure how accurate the info is:

Google actually did take this technology and try it. The first version of their image search had a “find similar” link next to every image. These tended to work okay at first (they weren’t great, but you usually got enough photos back that you could visually scan them and find something of interest that was related to the original image). After a few months, for some reason, the “find similar” links started returning increasingly nonsensical results. After it degenerated to the point of near uselessness, they took the “find similar” link away from the image search results. I expected it to turn up again once they got the kinks worked out, but apparently they just decided to stop working on it.

The search engine also offers a feature like this, and they let you upload a custom pic, which Google doesn’t allow. In 2007, I pondered a couple of other use cases of image pattern matching and recognition in Google.

The other release is called Google News Timeline, and it’s again pretty useful. You enter a search query, like yahoo, and are then presented with a left-to-right chronology of events throughot the years (or months, or days, depending on how fine-grained you want this to show). The news come from a variety of sources, including Wikipedia, scanned magazines, and blog posts. For instance, a New York Times report from April 9th, 1998, says “Yahoo’s First-Quarter Earnings Exceed Expectations of Analysts”. The scrolling wasn’t working very smooth when I tried this app in Firefox, but the data presented could help research quite a bit.

(Already, the Google News archives allowed you to drill down to a specific year via the left-hand navigation on results. However, an overview layout as is presented in the Labs experiment offers a quicker glance.)

[Thanks, Danny and Juha-Matti!]


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