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The Third Eye

First, I have to admit I have always been a big fan of everything that comes out of the Ideeplex in Toronto. These guys have the best image tracking system I have ever seen, PixId, already used by the top photo agencies in the world to save countless hours in their billing process. They have a visual search that is incomparable and might just be the secret weapon of the Alamy armada. They also have a color search that is the most proficient out there . You can see and play with all of them in their lab section. These guys are doing for photography what Einstein did for physics, making it progress by leaps and bounds. If you are not using one of Idee’s services these days, you  have a big problem.

So when Idee announced the beta version of their image search earlier this week, called TinEye, I could not wait to play with it. Premise is simple: Take an image that you either upload or find on a website and ask Tineye to  seek any place it is published. That would seem simple enough, but Tineye will also find that image, wether its been cropped, resized, re colored, twisted, bended, you name it. Even with major (and we are talking major) alteration, Tineye will find it. Alterations that would make a human eye miss it. Impressive. very impressive.

That image:

brought up this image, among many others:

Because it is still in Beta, the results are not impressive in numbers. They have only indexed half a billion images and are in the process of indexing the rest. Hey, Google was not built in one day either. If you live near Toronto, you probably can see the smoke coming out of the Ideeplex. It’s those server crunching data under the watchful eyes of master genius CTO Paul Bloore. Or could it be from CEO Leila Boujnane head, fuming with impatience because it is not finished yet ?

I played with many different types of images, using the cool Firefox plug in that lets you perform a search without leaving the site you are visiting.Hard to stop and I know I will continue to use it intensively.

So what it is good for ? Well, for one, speaking of Orphan Work, this image search engine that could will find all usage of an image, including, very certainly, the owner of the image.  It is going to much, much harder to claim that an image is orphan with this guy. But it can do much more. Think of all those micro and midstock  photographers who would love to see where their images have been used. Same with those CC happy Flickr members. Pro photographers will be able to keep a watchful eye over their agencies, as well as agencies can keep a watchful eye for unauthorized usage (Picscout, beware ).

There are many other potential for this free image search which suddenly puts google image into the medieval ages. And it will be a pleasure to watch and grow and mature. There is no doubt this will be one of the biggest success of the internet in recent years. Because people are fed up of searching for images with text. It just doesn’t make any sense. This is just the beginning of the end of keywording, the fall of the controlled vocabulary despotism.

Tineye returns exact matches, for the time being, and that is  maybe its most important shortcoming. It will return the same exact image and not similar. But knowing these guys, that will not last long, and the option to return images that look like the image you are using shouldn’t be that far.

If you have a chance, jump on this as soon as you can. They are taking suggestions and I am sure would love to hear your. It is time to make history . ( oh no, I sound like Obama now…)

Either way, these guys have a reputation: If it is not perfect, its not finished. So, do not expect them to open Tineye to the public before every little crumb of image is properly indexed.

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