Search For Similar Images Online Using Images Rather Than Keywords

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advanced image searchThe ways we search for information online are constantly evolving. One of the most interesting (comparatively) new methods currently being developed by companies around the web revolves around the idea of using images as a basis for search queries.

Of course we already have a plethora of color-based image search engines as well as other fun search tools we have been reviewing from time to time, but most of them have one thing in common: the keyword comes first: we use words to search.

This post is about another type of search: where an image comes first.


By using images as a basis for queries the new advanced image search tools coming out of development are able to provide a totally different (beyond the advanced) type of experience.

As the technology is still in its infancy, various developers are working on specific kinds of practical applications for this type of search. The three services that I think currently put the concept to its best uses are:

1. BYO Image Search Lab

The BYO Image Search Lab was one of the earliest image-based search engines to appear online. Users can:

  1. either use a base image from their PC as a starting point for a search,
  2. or they can use a URL path from an online image instead.

The engine than produces a batch of relatively similar pictures based primarily on the color similarity, though it does have some success when it comes to prioritizing results that match or contain similar elements (form and theme similarity).

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advanced image search

2. Gazopa

Following hot on the heels of BYO comes [NO LONGER WORKS] Gazopa (find the MUO Gazopa review here) which, like its rival, is a tool for matching images with similar ones. Like with BYO, user’s can either upload a picture or get one from the Internet to initiate the search.

However, it seems that by basing its results more on shape outlines than color, the results shown are a lot more like the original image searched for (as compared to the above tool):

advanced image search

3. TinEye

TinEye (find the MUO TinEye review here) is a tool being developed by the same company behind BYO (Idée). It is available as an addon for the four major browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari), which, when installed, allows users to search for images on the web that exactly match the image used to start the search.

TinEye seems to be focused on exact matches (looking for images that look exactly the same).

TinEye can tell if pictures at a different resolution still match the initial query, which makes it a really great piece of software for keeping track of any copyrighted or personal (potentially embarrassing) images of yours that may be circulating around the web.

advanced image search

So how can you actually use these tools? The opportunities are plenty:

  • Use these tools to check who has stolen your copyright images;
  • Use these tools to track down people’s avatars and find more places to connect to them;
  • Use these tools to check where the competition is buying advertising space.
  • Use these tools for design inspiration when stuck (when you know how something may look like but can’t describe it in words)
  • What’s more?

Have you come across any image-based search tools that are more advanced than the ones I’ve mentioned here ? Let me know if you have.

Post image source: Flickr

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15 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Mrcloseencounters

As I have stated in a previous MakeUseOf posting of the tool .. TinEye .. Forget It!

I have had this “tool” for over a year now, searched Way over a thousand images with it .. Nada, Nothing, Zilch.

Useless.

Sorry.

MC

d.g.

TinEye is a bit hit or miss, but it has helped me locate more information about pictures on several occasions; by finding other sites that have the picture with greater context than the site I found it on.

Other than Google’s “similar images” feature, which I use just for random browsing purposes, TinEye is the only image based image search that I have ever found to be useful.

Ann Smarty

It all comes to HOW and WHY actually you are trying to use it for. TinEye is a great tool with huge potential – all it needs is a bit bigger database.

Reply

Mrcloseencounters

As I have stated in a previous MakeUseOf posting of the tool .. TinEye .. Forget It!

I have had this “tool” for over a year now, searched Way over a thousand images with it .. Nada, Nothing, Zilch.

Useless.

Sorry.

MC

Reply

Guyrichie

I’ve only used TinEye personally, it seems like it has potential but it hasn’t been as much help for my needs as iwould like, but the things I’m looking for aren’t all that common neither,

Reply

Anonymous

I just discovered Pictriev for finding similar faces on the web using the face recognition.

http://www.pictriev.com/

TinEye is amazing and with very few exceptions has found the source or higher resolution versions of every image I’ve thrown at it. It’s one tool in my arsenal I’d find hard to replace.

Reply

askives

I just discovered Pictriev for finding similar faces on the web using the face recognition.

http://www.pictriev.com/

TinEye is amazing and with very few exceptions has found the source or higher resolution versions of every image I’ve thrown at it. It’s one tool in my arsenal I’d find hard to replace.

Reply

Aibek

I have just tested the BYO Image Search, it seem to find images more based on color similarities rather than the context. Still does a pretty decent job.

Ann Smarty

Yes, like I said, it is primarily based on colors but not only colors. It does seem to try to recognize the objects (people, figures) and forms.

Reply

d.g.

TinEye is a bit hit or miss, but it has helped me locate more information about pictures on several occasions; by finding other sites that have the picture with greater context than the site I found it on.

Other than Google’s “similar images” feature, which I use just for random browsing purposes, TinEye is the only image based image search that I have ever found to be useful.

Reply

Tarawneh1983

“BYO Image Search Lab” seems to search for simmilar colors other than the object’s features or outline.

e.g http://www.orau.org/ptp/collection/consumer%20products/vaselineuv.jpg

Reply

Tarawneh1983

“BYO Image Search Lab” seems to search for simmilar colors other than the object’s features or outline.

e.g http://www.orau.org/ptp/collec

Reply

TechGyo

Good post! Few days back, i wrote an article about tinyeye.. you can check it here.. — http://techgyo.com/index.php/h

Reply

elogy

Have you tried Macroglossa? ( http://www.macroglossa.com ). The company said: Macroglossa is a search engine based on the comparison of images. The operation is simple: Have you taken a picture of something you could not identify? And to learn more about the content of your image, you can simply upload the image file to MACROGLOSSA and begin your search.

It’s on alpha stage but the engine seems different from the others web tools. Macroglossa could become a good base platform for visual reconnaissance.

Reply

Ssystech

Hi,

Thanks for this post !
I really appreciate ur work.

Thanks and Regards
Ssystech Software Solutions

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