Google Image Swirl

By lwarbasselwarbasse (1258934643|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)

To add to their ever expanding arsenal of features and tools, Google introduced a new search feature called Google Image Swirl. A cool tool, however, whether there is any practical use for it other than wasting time, is another question that seems to come up - a common theme with the numerous tools that are created every day.


How it Works

The way the image swirl works is very similar to a tool called Pixolu, which we reviewed in our Image Search day in class. As with any standard image search, you enter your query into the search field, and the engine returns pictures that match the query. The difference from a standard image search comes, however, with the selection of images returned to you. Image Swirl lets you refine your image search by clicking one or a few of the images given to you, and based off of your selection, refines your search to images like the ones selected. The process may sound complicated, but in reality is very simple.


Say you type in Michigan Football. It gives a page of results with photos of players, the Michigan emblem, the stadium, and more. Maybe you want photos of the Big House. So then you click one or more of the photos of Michigan Stadium, and it returns a bunch of photos of Michigan stadium in a sort of web of connected photos (shown to the right). You can refine your selection even further, by selecting a certain type of photo returned, and Google Image Swirl will return even more similar photos.


You may wonder what this tool could be used for, other than a fun thing to do while looking at photos, and frankly, I wonder the exact same thing.

"The “Official Google Blog” has this to say:

Back in 2001, to give people a new, quicker way to find images, we launched Image Search. When you do a search for [eiffel tower] you’ll find an array of images of the tower in the daytime, in black and white, at sunset and more. With Similar Images, which recently graduated from Google Labs, you can click “Find similar images” to narrow your search to, say, pictures of the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. Today, we’ve launched an experimental feature in Labs called Google Image Swirl, which builds on new computer vision research to cluster similar images into representative groups in a fun, exploratory interface."

"Fun" and "Exploratory" they say. I think Google feels the same way about this tool that I do, that Google Image Swirl, is no more than another internet time waster. I doubt this feature will make it past the "experimental" stage, especially with the fact that the number of images returned from your search is much smaller than the regular Google Image Search, and there is much less variation to choose from. I stand on the side of a ZDNet blogger by the name of Garett Rogers, who I think describes this tool and others like it best, "I have a problem with things like Google Image Swirl. Not the offering itself, just the strange notion that somehow cool design equals usefulness."

Nice idea, but unfortunately, I think its uselessness in addition to the small number of results returned will lead image searchers and Google Users away from this tool as time goes on…


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