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Microsoft’s Bing recently introduced visual search as a different approach to search. I always use regular Google or Bing search for my needs, but sometimes I like to check out other search engines. Variety is the spice of life, and eye-candy is always a refreshing break!
In this article, let us look at 4 Visual Search Engines that provide a unique and enjoyable search experience.
Bing has introduced a new approach to its visual search by letting you browse topic-specific galleries and narrow the field of your search by selecting filters.
In this approach, you do not need to type anything to start searching. To use the Bing Visual Search Engine, you should have installed Silverlight and set your country to US. From the home page, you can see a set of featured galleries, or choose from different categories like Entertainment, Famous People, Reference, Shopping and Sports.
When you select a gallery, you get an eye-popping display of choices, which you can filter using categories on the left. For example, if I choose Popular Books, I get a nice array of books like in a real bookstore. I can sort books by Title, Author, Sales, or even Length. On the left, I can narrow the results by choosing a sub-category or filter. In this case, subcategories for books are Newest, or the Top pre-order/fiction/non-fiction/paperback lists.
I can also use filters to narrow the results for what I might find suitable for my taste: the subject, author, format (hardcover, etc.), and length in pages. Some of the galleries, like the top iPhone apps gallery for example, are especially useful and offer a unique experience. Once you use it for a while, you might think that this new feature distinguishes Bing from Google to a limited extent, as a decision-making engine.
After using Spezify, I felt we do injustice to the web by using an exclusive textual interface to search the rich multimedia of the web. Spezify works like a generic search engine, except that the results are a visual collage of media drawn from different kinds of media sources – textual links from web pages, informative links from Wikipedia, pictures from across the web, tweets with the search term, videos from YouTube, books from Amazon, and so on. You need Flash to use Spezify.
You can browse through the results matrix in both vertical and horizontal directions, and look at the pictures as well as the videos from within the search results page. The links within the tweets will take you directly to the page about that topic. Articles from the web are displayed along with the number of Diggs, which show that Spezify uses Digg to show you popular content. Terms related to the topic are displayed at the top if you wish to explore or narrow your search.
Viewzi, which runs using Flash, is the most customizable and multi-faceted visual search engine. For any search term, it offers up to 19 different ways to view the search results, and you can make any one of them your default. The types of views cover everything under the sun – web screenshots, simple text, photos, music, news, celebrity gossip, recipes, weather, etc.
Videos are fetched from Joost, YouTube, and Viddler, but cannot be played back within the results page. However, the best view is the photo tag view, in which you can explore Flickr photos of related tags just by clicking on them. You can drag the tags around whichever way you want, and the interface is quite remarkable.
We had covered SpaceTime on MakeUseOf back when it was a 3D browser. SpaceTime is now a visual search engine using Flash, which shows search results in cover-flow style. You can choose results from Google or Wikipedia, or search Images, or videos from YouTube. Again, the videos can’t be played back within the search results, however the image search does look very pretty.
While you may not use these visual search engines for routine search queries, they do offer an attractive, unique experience. They can be a great way to introduce children to the richness of the web, or to encourage their curiosity in a certain topic. Even for us, they are a refreshing way to explore the web in a different way.
Last year, we also profiled TinEye which is another possibility – but this one is termed by the site as “reverse search“. You upload an image to them and they will search for similarities.
Are there any of your other favorite visual search engines we missed? Do tell us in the comments!
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