- atlas -> cartography (as opposed to the titan, Ayn Rand’s novel, or the bodybuilder)
- dollar: bill or coin?
- gremlin: car, good mogli, or what happens when they’re fed after midnight
According to a TechCrunch interview with Google engineering director Radhika Malpani, the approach is based on indexing visual similarity, perhaps along the line of this well-reported WWW 2008 paper co-authored by Googler Shumeet Baluja.
The feature is neat, and I think similarity search is a great fit for image search. Regular readers may have read previous posts here about Modista, a startup specializing in exploratory visual search.
Still, I do have three criticisms. First, I find that many searches don’t return enough diversity to make similarity search helpful, e.g., blackberry returns no images of the fruit. Second, the images returned aren’t organized–which seems like a lost opportunity if Google knows enough to cluster them based on pairwise visual similarity. Third, similarity is too fine-grained: I find that similar images are often near-duplicates or the starting image.
Nonetheless, this is a solid launch, and I’m delighted to see Google do anything related to exploratory search.