Google Labs on Monday launched a duo of new services in its quest to improve the user experience. Google believes Similar Images and News Timeline add compelling new features and functions to the Google platform.
Like other Google Labs innovations, analysts said these tools might prove valuable for users looking for faster ways to find specific types of information.
"At Google, we are constantly researching, designing and brainstorming about the next big idea, and when we think we've found something compelling, we often use our '20 percent time' to build a working version," said Michael Cohen of Google Labs. "Back in 2002, we created Google Labs to give these budding experiments a home where users could try them and share their thoughts with us. Some of our most popular products began this way, including Google Maps, iGoogle and Google News."
Searching for Similar Images
Many Google users are familiar with Image Search, a tool that will offer up just about any type of image on the Internet. However, Google admits that sometimes it's difficult to find the right image if you don't have the right words to describe it.
Similar Images aims to help image searchers overcome that obstacle. Searchers can find images that look like an existing result by clicking on a link. For example, if you search for "jaguar," you can use the "Similar Images" link to narrow your search to just cars or just animals.
"You might try exploring the pyramids of Egypt or discovering the Forbidden City. Or you might go shopping for an elegant evening gown or that perfect pair of shoes," explained Chuck Rosenberg, Google's computer vision researcher. "So if you see an image you like, but you're stumped on how to describe it, just click the 'Similar Images' link to see more like it."
Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, said Similar Images will probably gain traction with Google searchers because Image Search is a mainstream phenomenon. "Similar Images is an effective tool that lets you find a lot of pictures on the same topic quickly," he said. "This is a nice incremental addition to Image Search."
Google News Timeline
Google News Timeline organizes information chronologically by presenting results from Google News and other data sources on a zoomable, graphical time line. Searchers can navigate through time by dragging the time line, setting the time scale to days, weeks, months, years or decades, or just including a time period in your query, such as "1997."
"Google News Timeline can present results from lots of different sources, including both recent and archival news, scanned newspapers and magazines, blog posts, and sports scores and media like music and movies," said Andy Hertzfeld, a software engineer at Google. "You can view multiple sources simultaneously, allowing each source to lend context to the others."
Sterling said although Google News Timeline may not be as mainstream as Similar Images, it's perhaps more interesting because it enables news junkies to track mentions of various topics -- from global warming to Barack Obama -- over time in a visual format that's easy to scan.
"This reminds me of The New York Times' article skimmer," Sterling said. "The Times organizes all of the articles by section in a grid and it makes it very easy to scan the article by headline, and there's a blurb about the article and you can move through the different sections of the paper very quickly. It's a lot more efficient."