A Couple of New Offerings from Google — Similar Images and Timelines

Late last month Google announced a couple fun products in Google Labs, one for Google Images and one for Google News.

Google Images now has a “similar images” search at Search for an image (you don’t have to restrict yourself to the ones on the front page) and you’ll get a page of results. Some of the results will have a “similar images” link underneath them. Click on that and you’ll get a group of images that are, well, similar.

Sometimes this will be prosaic; do a search for grizzly bear, do a similar search for the grizzy bear with his mouth open, and you’ll get a page full of grizzly bears with their mouths open, or grizzly bear head shots, or inexplicably, a moose. The fun begins when you do less-straightforward searches. I did a search for beach lightning and picked an interesting shot (clouds boiling over the ocean, a bolt of lightning) for the similar images. What I found was that the similar images didn’t appear to look for certain elements so much (like the lightning) as much as swathes of color and the horizontal and vertical arrangements of elements. The similar search found me some lightning shots, some beach sunset shots, and this great wave image from Flickr.

I would encourage you to stick to static elements, though; I did a search for exhaustion and did a similar image search for a picture of an exhausted guy lying on his back in the mud. I ended up with paint ball pictures and several renfest shots. I have no idea how. The occasional map image was thrown in. Stick to concrete subjects unless you enjoy surrealism.

The second product is Google News Timeline, up for testing at The page presents a grid of a week with news stories splashed across it. Enter a query and get very focused stories, all set up across a timeline so you can quickly browse for the highlights of a particular day. Search for H1N1 with the grid to show you weeks’ worth of stories instead of days’, and you’ll see how quickly the swine flu issue blew up in the media.

The entries on the calendar will show a headline and a snippet and sometimes a very small photograph. You can also adjust the calendar to show different size fonts. Google does seem to be featuring certain content providers, but I got search results from all over the Web when I ran a standard news timeline search.

Don’t leave yet, though. If you’ll look at the pulldown next to the query box you’ll see that you can map all kinds of things onto this calendar, including news videos, quotes, and photos. There are also more general things you can map on this calendar, like TV shows, blogs and even video games. Be careful; this can turn into a serious timesink. (Do not make me map animated cartoons onto a release calendar.)

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten really wound up about new Google Labs offerings, but these are great. Well done guys.

Categories: News

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