Google, Microsoft Experiment With Visual Search

LOS ANGELES — Two of the world's leading tech companies are looking to the eye for their latest innovations in search.

Industry king Google rolled out a new way to search news articles yesterday called Google Fast Flip. It works like this:

On the landing page, users encounter a grid of scrollable snapshots of web pages. They can then visually scan which stories look interesting. Users also have the option of looking at a larger thumbnail of a prospective page before clicking through. Fast Flip offers content from 40 familiar news sources.

But that's the drawback, too. Fast Flip only searches the inventories of those 40 news sources. Google hasn't revealed whether it plans to expand the service to cover the entire web.

For now, though, it looks like Google has taken out another minor competitor, the visual search-engine Now defunct, provided similar functionality, except with a flashier style that emulated Apple's scrollable album covers in iTunes.

Simple searches for "porn" and "sex" returned plenty of results from Fast Flip, but because of its limited scope, it doesn't yet return adult results.

One tantalizing possibility built into Fast Flip is its intelligence.

"The more you use Google Fast Flip, the smarter it will get to things you like," tech analyst MG Siegler said.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has added a new function to its upstart search engine Bing that echoes Fast Flip's limited scope but potential as an adult search engine.

It's called visual search, and it presents users with a matrix of categories to choose from. Users can then scroll through an animated, interactive gallery of images.

But as with Fast Flip, the library of images is limited by Bing itself, which only offers about 40 categories to search. Adult is not among them.


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