Google has recently released a beta version of an image experiment called “Image Swirl.” According to Google, “The service “organizes image search results based on their visual and semantic similarities and presents them in an intuitive exploratory interface.”
The search capability is pretty limited right now, but the idea behind it is quite interesting. It reminds me of mind mapping techniques where you begin with a central idea and branch out to related resources and concepts. Image Swirl groups thumbnail sized images together from a performed search by similar appearance rather than by relevancy.
I gave it a try and used a suggested search on Andy Warhol. Google Image Swirl brought up several “Stacks” of images for me to choose from. Because the search is based on images with similar style rather than relevancy I could choose between Warhol’s pieces as well as images created by others meant to emulate Warhol’s style.
I selected the stack with Warhol’s famous Campbell’s tomato soup can and the images “swirled” around to create connections of similar images with the same subject matter.
I will be very interested how this technology progresses. I would not replace a traditional Google Image search with this yet, but I would use it as a supplementary search as it may create connections to imagery and ideas that I would not have pieced together.