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Visual Search That Actually Works: TinEye

August 22nd, 2008

A new visual search engine has been launched by a Canadian company TinEye.

Instead of entering text describing an object such as the phrase “tiger jumping” you upload or provide the URL of a photo.

But this is far more than a simple file search. I tried with jpg and gif photos and it found both file types on the internet regardless of which I provided. It even found photos where they had been cropped or the colour and size changed.

Passing it a collage of several photos it was able to identify other photos containing one of the component photos.

Clearly it is performing a rapid search in its database for some kind of signature of the visual look of the image and this is allowing a range of images containing that pattern to be identified.

It would seem to be mainly useful for researching the origins and usage of a photo in order to obtain, or identify abuse of, the usage rights.

I was very impressed with the tests I performed.

If you would like to give it a go it is at http://tineye.com/

I would be intereseted in hearing where people find the limits are. I ran out of good tests without hitting a problem.

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  1. August 24th, 2008 at 10:29 | #1

    Hi Owen,
    Thanks for giving TinEye a try. You are correct: we compare your search image to our entire index (currently just over 700 million images – but we’re growing it) to retrieve image matches for you. We create a fingerprint for all the images in our index: what this means is that each image in our index is processed with our image recognition technology to create a fingerprint that takes into consideration the image’s unique patterns. This allows us to retrieve matches for your image search even if the image has been cropped, modified, compressed or is in different formats. We don’t look at the metadata of a file but only at the patterns in the image.

    Thanks for giving TinEye a spin.

    Leila Boujnane, CEO, Idee Inc

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