Saturday, 19 May 2012

Bird-spotting on Google Image Search

The difficulties of getting computers to see the world the way humans can is illustrated by the current state of Google's image search.

One can drag  a photo from a computer folder into the image search box, and then the comparison software gets to work and scours the internet for similar images.

I took a photo of a garden bird the other day, and wondered what sort of bird it was.

Trying the Google image search, the results were fairly surprising.

The search results, in order, are:

Stirring coconut into condensed milk
Moslem cuisine
Washington Airport
A woman at a workbench
The interior of an apartment
A jeweller at a workbench
A Greek museum display
Some horses
A bunch of cages
A possible member of the Indonesian government
A bobcat

Evidently, it's early days for the devlopment of this software. As superficially amusing as the results might be, they're obviously looking at colour and texture, and many of the photos do have something in common with the bird's colour scheme, or the texture of the gravel in the background.

Merely getting a computer to distinguish an object of interest from the background clutter is a serious challenge.

It might be interesting if I try the search again, in the future. Say, at one year intervals, just to see how the computer guys are progressing in their software development. It's only a matter of time before they get there.

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