Search by text, voice, or image

6/14/11 | 10:45:00 AM

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During our Inside Search press event in San Francisco today, we discussed how mobile search has inspired new ways to remove barriers to knowledge on the desktop and help you get to your results faster. On a mobile phone, you’re not limited to typing - you can search using your voice or a picture. Now you can do the same on your computer with Voice Search and Search by Image on desktop. You can also get your results faster with Google Instant on Images and Instant Pages.

Voice Search on desktop

You’ve been able to use Voice Search on mobile devices since 2008, but you’re probably so used to typing your searches that you don’t immediately think to use your voice. With Voice Search now available on desktop, searching by voice is becoming more ubiquitous and the idea of being able to speak your search will be more familiar, no matter what you’re searching for.

Voice Search can be especially useful for long queries such as [pictures of big wave surfing in Waimea Bay] or words that are hard to spell like [Schenectady, New York]. It’s also a helpful option if you’re in a conversational mood and you’d rather ask your question out loud than think of the keywords to type. For example, maybe you want to find “a recipe for spaghetti with bolognese sauce.” Just click the microphone icon in the search box and ask out loud.


Voice Search on desktop takes advantage of Chrome’s Speech API and will be available to everyone using Chrome 11+ in English after it has rolled out over the next week. You'll also need to make sure you have a microphone that works, whether it's built into your computer or an external mic that you plug in.

Search by Image on desktop

You’ve also been able to search by image on your phone since 2009 with Google Goggles. But sometimes when you're on your computer, you may not have the words to describe exactly what you’re looking for. You might have an old vacation photo, but forgot the name of that beautiful beach. Typing [guy on a rocky path on a cliff with an island behind him] isn’t exactly specific enough to help find your answer. So when words aren’t as descriptive as the image, you can now search using the image itself.

To search using an image, go to images.google.com and just put your picture in the search box. There are many ways to do this. You can click the camera icon in the search box and upload a photo from your computer or paste the URL of an image from the web. You can also drag and drop pictures from webpages or your computer into the search box. To search images on the web even faster with just one click, you can download the Chrome or Firefox extensions.


Search by Image returns the best results for images that have related content already on the web, so you’re more likely to get relevant results for distinctive landmarks or paintings than you will for more unique photos like your toddler’s latest finger painting. In addition to getting relevant results about your image, you can also find visually similar images or the same image in different sizes or resolutions.

Search by Image starts with the computer vision technology underlying Google Goggles, and adds new techniques and functionality that optimize the experience for desktop. The technology behind Search by Image analyzes your image to find its most distinctive points, lines and textures and creates a mathematical model. We match that model against billions of images in our index, and page analysis helps us derive a best guess text description of your image. Search by Image technology also includes the ability to match against images on the web so that we can show you similar images and webpages that contain your image.

Search by Image is rolling out and will be available in most countries over the next couple of days. The Chrome and Firefox extensions are available for download now, but until Search by Image is rolled out to you, you won’t see the extension active in your browser.

Google Images with Instant

Another theme of our event was speed. Last fall when we introduced Google Instant, we sped up searching by showing you results as you type. In our event today we showed a sneak preview of Google Images with Instant.

Google Images with Instant will be available over the next couple of months to all domains and languages where Instant is already available. If you want to try it sooner, opt in at google.com/experimental.

Instant Pages

Whether you’re typing, speaking, or using an image, entering your search is only part of the process. You’re not really done searching until you have the answer you’re looking for. But waiting for webpages to load adds time to this process - the average webpage takes about five seconds to load.

With Instant Pages in Chrome, you can skip the extra seconds waiting for a page to load and get to the answers you’re looking for faster with webpages that load instantly.

For searches when we can predict with reasonable confidence that you’ll click on the first result, Instant Pages technology will begin loading that webpage early so that by the time you click on the result, the entire webpage appears fully loaded instantly. Take a look at this side-by-side comparison:


Learn more about the technology behind Instant Pages on the Chromium blog and, if you’re a webmaster, you can learn more on our Webmaster Central blog. Instant Pages is currently available in the developer version of Chrome, and will be included in the next beta version. It will will be available to all Chrome users later this summer.