As tech-competent as I like to believe I am, the list of things I don’t know is likely shamefully longer than I care to admit or even realize. I tend to count Google as something with which my familiarity is solid, but last night, I discovered some things that revealed Google and I aren’t as tight as I thought we were. While browsing through some old posts on the excellent Swiss Army Librarian blog, I picked up a couple of new Google tricks that should prove very handy for librarians and library users alike. Pardon me if these are so five minutes ago.
The first bit of Google magic I picked up is reverse image searching. I have always thought that it would be awesome and incredibly useful to be able to query a search engine by picture, but I assumed we were a ways away from such a thing being possible. Apparently, it’s been possible to do so on Google for over three years, and through other services like TinEye for even longer. Boy, do I feel silly. It turns out that little camera icon at the right end of the Google Images search bar can be clicked to initiate a reverse image search.
You can upload an image from your computer or provide a URL, and Google will return related images. This would seemingly be very helpful when trying to find out the original source of an image or attempting to find out more information about something for which you have only a picture. I’ve been testing it out, and while I haven’t been wowed by the results (most of my searches have returned very similar looking images to my original image, but not images that exactly match the original object/person*), but I’m sufficiently impressed that this type of search even exists and am eager to find quality uses for it. This list from Lifehacker offers some neat practical uses.
My second learned lesson in Googlage is also related to image searching, and while it doesn’t compare to reverse image searching in sheer amazingness, it’s helpful nonetheless. When doing a traditional image search, if you click the “Search Tools” button, in addition to being able to specify a number of other search restrictions, you can limit your search by image color.
To this point, I’ve only ever restricted searches by image size and had never even noticed the color option. A reader of Swiss Army Librarian suggested using color searching to find a book about which nothing more was known than its color and the cover image. As someone who sometimes fields requests along the lines of “I need this yellow book, I don’t know the title or the author, but it’s got a bird on the cover,” this could be a life-saving search tool.
So, while I’m a bit embarrassed to only be discovering these things now, as always, it’s better late than never, and it serves as a reminder that one has to stay hyper-vigilant in keeping up with technology. What you think you know today could very well surprise you tomorrow. Also, as much as us librarian types like to remind people that Google can’t and shouldn’t be used for everything, there’s no denying it’s a mighty tool, and I’m glad to have it as an ally.
*I tried searching using a picture of myself, and most of the results were dogs. The fact that they were cute dogs only makes me feel slightly better.