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Visual Search Engines: The Future of Information Indexing

Earlier in 2009, even before cheap car insurance website www.potsofmoney.co.uk sold it's first cheap short term car insurance policy, Google Labs announced the release of a brand new creation that went under the radar of virtually everyone other than a handful of developers and early adopters of new consumer technology: Google Goggles. Google Goggles is a visual search engine that represents what is likely to be the next huge leap forward in the way that people search for information on the internet. Rather than entering keywords into search engine, users use digital photos as their search queries, and Google Goggles searches for information that is relevant to the picture that was submitted. Although the technology behind Google Goggles is still in its infancy, this technology will be a huge part of how future generations search for information.

During the early days of the internet, back when users were still talking about the "information super highway," few could have predicted that search engines like Google would become the dominant force in how information on the internet is indexed, located and accessed. At the time, industry observers spoke of an overload of information that could only be organized by the dedication of human beings visiting each site and organizing them in complex directories and information portals such as Yahoo. Only a few visionary developers could see that the future lay in complex search algorithms that respond directly to way that people actually use the internet.

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Similarly, only a small percentage of the population is aware of the incredible promise that visual search engines hold for the future. At present, Google Goggles is only available to work on Android mobile phones, but there are plans in place to open up access to the general public in the near future. According to reviews from early adopters, the tool is already incredibly advanced, letting users identify works of art and/or access book reviews based on a search query of the art work or book cover, for example. However, developers explain that this is but the beginning of something truly revolutionary. Other companies are developing technology that will let you access complete consumer information on products while you shop based on a quick shot of a bar code. As the processes powering these visual search engines becomes more powerful, more and more items will be able to be searched for visually.

Imagine yourself in the not so distant future enjoying a peaceful morning walk in your favorite park. Spring is in full bloom, and a variety of bird songs can be heard. You see a particularly interesting wildflower and bend down with your mobile device for a closer inspection. Based on a quick visual search query by your device, you learn that is an orchid known as Showy Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium reginae), the state flower of Minnesota that is one of the more common orchids in North America, and you forward a picture of the plant on to a couple of your friends. Another quick query based on an audio capture of one of a bird song reveals that it is a Mourning Dove, so named due to the low pitch and melancholy tone of its call. A quick glance at the time and your GPS coordinates on the trail map displayed on your mobile device informs you that you still have plenty of time to enjoy your walk, with nearly complete information on the natural world at your fingertips and direct access to your loved ones and colleagues from anywhere in the world.