5 Unusual Uses of Google Image Search You Might Not Have Heard About

Saikat Basu 10-04-2013

uses of google image searchBy now, we all know about different uses of Google Image search. Yaara’s post on some vital Google Image Search hacks 7 Vital Google Image Search Hacks Want to use Google Images like a pro? Here are advanced tips you should know for successful image searches Read More should always hold you in good stead. So much so, that I can bet a small part of my piggy bank that it is the preferred address you go to for searching images. Bing has its uses but when the face-off is between Bing Images versus Google Images Bing Images vs. Google Images - Which Has Better Results? Bing’s image search once challenged Google, offering more features and a better design. With infinite scrolling and the ability to search for similar images, Bing was legitimately better than Google at image search just a... Read More , I still side with Google.


What are your main uses of Google Image Search? Do you use it to search similar images How To Find Similar Images Using Google's Image Search Like all Google products, Google Image Search has continuously been tweaked and improved. The latest change comes to the Google Similar Images option. Google has put in a feature that now you can use to... Read More ? Or do you put it to any of the uses I listed in my advanced Google Search for images 10 Tips to Have Fun Using Advanced Google Search for Images Read More article quite a while ago? All of them are still relevant by the way.

Then there are some of the more unusual uses of Google Image Search…alternatives that takes it away from the beaten path. This is where we are going to take a stroll now with five more offbeat uses of Google Image Search.

As a Visual Language: The Image Language

uses of google image search

You can also call this Write with Images. The Image Language (beta) is an experimental visualization project that is trying to turn images into a “new language”. As it says, it is trying to – create an interactive visual experiment that explores the possibilities of two things: words and images. The experiment has basically been developed by three people – a programmer, an Argentinean Copywriter and a Brazilian Art Director.

The Image Language uses each word you type into the box to retrieve the top Google Image Search result for that word and display it on the page. In simple words, it is translating your word into an image. Yes, it seems kind of trivial but it’s interesting to test out word combinations and see what images they turn up. Check out the screenshot to see what my attempt brought forth.


Crowdsourcing Artificial Intelligence: Visual Dictionary

google image search

The Visual Dictionary is one of the more creative uses of Google Image search with visualizations. It is a large image map of all the nouns in the English language arranged by semantic meaning. Literally, by the sound of it, it seems like a large project. According to the explanation given on the site, 7,527,697 images were used, each tile being the average of 140 images. Google Image Search was used as one of the search engines to source the images for the words.

Wondering at its mysterious purpose? Well, the project’s idea is to make it easier for computers to recognize objects within images. Visual Dictionary is a crowdsourced project. You can help by clicking on the tile that corresponds to the word definition. It helps to make the dataset more accurate.

As a Desktop Wallpaper: Montage Maker [No Longer Available]

google image search


The Visual Dictionary is just one of the interesting Google Image Search visualizations out there. Montage Maker (Montage-a-Google) is one I would definitely recommend. You can use it with any keyword to create a picture smorgasbord or wallpaper. Check out the one below which I tried out with the word “happiness”.

Explore Cultural Differences: Image Atlas

google image search

Image Atlas is another interesting visualization experiment that examines cultural differences and also similarities by displaying the top image search result for a given keyword from 57 countries. The comparisons among the countries can be sorted in alphabetical order or by GDP (Gross Domestic Product). The premise behind the project is that words (i.e. search keywords) have a cultural context. Searching for “prayer” from Spain will give you different results than doing from India or any other country. Image Atlas takes your search term and displays a horizontal row of thumbnail images corresponding to that word from the countries around the world. The image search results also probably vary over time as the world changes.

Image Atlas was the collaboration between the late Aaron Swartz, the internet activist and computer programmer, and Taryn Simon, a photographer. Here’s a NY Times article that talks about their image experiment.


Google Image Search as Art: I’m Google

uses of google image search

Dina Kelberman is an artist from Baltimore. She has created a running collage of similar images from Google Image Search on a Tumblr blog. She calls it “a long stream of consciousness”. One photo (or video) moves from one to the next based on similarities in form, composition, color, and theme. You can keep on scrolling down the page as one block of similar images gives way to the next. Most images are on common themes.

Dina Kelberman says she has “obsessed over Google Image searches and has collected images she found beautiful, though they might not be aesthetically so. Individually, maybe not. But when collected together they do have an artistic appeal.

These five different uses of Google Image search demonstrate how many ways a technology can be used beyond the obvious. Maybe, you cannot immediately “make use of them”, but they can inspire you to look at a search tool like Google Image Search and think up a use in your daily life. So, tell us in the comments if you use image search for something specific. Do you know of any more interesting uses of Google Image Search that could be of use to our wider community?


Image Source: Hand reaching images via Shutterstock

Related topics: Google Search, Image Search.

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  1. Mark LaFlamme
    April 11, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    I actually prefer Bing image search these days because I find it easier to quickly scroll through the results. The concept remains the same, though. I probably do image searches at least a couple times per day. Mostly I use it for research while writing novels. Need to describe a very old woman and can't bring an image to your head? Bam! I'll type in "old woman eye wrinkles" and there she is, staring out and just waiting to be described. And so on. Great for book cover ideas, too.

    • Saikat Basu
      April 11, 2013 at 5:04 pm

      That in fact is a really good idea - a cure for Writer's Block!

  2. macwitty
    April 11, 2013 at 9:36 am

    Image Language was nice. Maybe not for using the images but to get some ideas for illustrating blog posts or other thing. Bookmarked and will use it next time my brain don't want to cooperate

  3. Nohl Lyons
    April 10, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    I use images for my business, and I use it to verify that images don't violate intelectual property protection.

    • Saikat Basu
      April 10, 2013 at 6:44 pm

      Well, that is one of the main uses. Have you caught any that did using Google Image Search?
      I was trying to search out really unique uses of a service that practically stares at us every day :)

      • Nohl Lyons
        April 10, 2013 at 8:05 pm

        It's also nice if you are surfing Pinterest and you want to know where they found amazing pictures of

        • Saikat Basu
          April 11, 2013 at 5:05 pm

          Pinterest usually links to the image source. But yes, if someone uploads an image and fails to credit it, then Image Search is handy.

  4. Harshit J
    April 10, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    Many puzzles can be formed using images as hints. People can use the reverse image search to find the answers.