Silly Saturday #40. Explore, Examine, Discover using Google’s “Search by Image”.

18 06 2011

This week Google launched “Search by Image”.

Google already offered the possibility to search for certain characteristics like color, size, faces, or license-free images. See for instance this fabulous search of  “sea stars” limited to pink (never knew such sea stars exist).

But now Google also allows search by image. If you found an image that you’re curious about, you can start to “explore, examine and discover”. Thus you can use an image as a search query. You can drag and drop photos from the web or from your desktop, into the search box, you can upload photos or you can use a Chrome extension for this. Google will return results that show you where that image, and similar images, appear on the web.

Just go to

On the same day that I read about this new tool @JoBrody asked at Twitter:

Anyone know this plant? Thank you 🙂 RT @JoBrodie: My mate Yasmin’s wondering what plant this is – any suggestions?
(The photo is at the left)

I retweeted the message to my followers, so they could help too.  I thought that it was blaasjeskruid in Dutch, but @nadineboke immediately answered it was blaasjessilene or Silene vulgaris.

She referred to the Wikipedia entry of Silene vulgaris, with pictures clearly resembling the photo of Jo Brodie’s friend.

Now, since I had just learned about Images by Google, I checked Google Images in the meantime. I uploaded Yasmin’s photo to and got this as result.

Hmpf? No Silene vulgaris appears. Whereas similar photos are on the web (Wikipedia for instance). It is clear that Google just has a broad look at the composition of photo’s and that the distribution of colors is most important. So any whitish item on a green background becomes resembling, even shoes and tigers…. 😉

That was interesting. Besides that Twitter had beaten Google in time, it was also more reliable (no surprise btw).

Since Google has the possibility to search faces, I tried what Images by Google would make of a face. I choose my own photo, which I use as an avatar at Facebook (making it easy for Google because the very same photo is on the web).

Google had no problem in finding the photo at Facebook and (less nice) no problem identifying me on (removed).

But now lets look at the resembling photos. Lets “Explore, examine and discover”.

Ooh yes! Stunning!

I would have never guessed I resembled males, colored people and above all….. Angela Merkel. 😉

To learn more about Search by Image, visit

Finding Skin Disease Pictures on the Web

10 11 2009

eric_118_gray_biggerGuest author: Eric Rumsey (@ericrumsey on Twitter)
Librarian and Web Developer at University of Iowa
Creater and Keeper of Hardin MD


When looking for skin disease pictures on the Web, the first step is to search for the specific disease terms of interest in Google Image Search. You will likely find something, but don’t assume that it comes close to being everything — Very likely it doesn’t! In my experience, it will have somewhere in the range of 10-30% of everything on the Web. In particular, it will not have images from what I consider to be the single most comprehensive, reliable site for skin disease pictures —, by  Alan N. Binnick & Thomas P. Habif, Dartmouth Medical School.

Though is a large site, with high-quality pictures, it does not appear in Google Image Search, apparently because the tagging/metadata is so sparse. Indeed, the pictures on the site are virtually without any accompanying text. They are classed by disease, but not by any other characteristics, e.g. age, gender, or anatomical region.

A relatively small subset of the images in are included in Hardin MD, where the tagging/metadata is more complete, making them easier to search. These images are included by special arrangement with people at Dermnet, who have given us permission to include them in Hardin MD.

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