A few weeks ago Yandex quietly launched a new feature on yandex.com, which, although still working a bit shakily, can be useful in real life situations. Meet reverse image search based on technology called Sibir (Russian for Siberia) yandex.com/images!
How it works
The technology was named Sibir after the abbreviation CBIR (computer-based image retrieval). What it does it breaking down the images submitted by users into, as Yandex call it, “virtual phrases” – numerical representation of image’s key features. Once the key features are retrieved, Sibir compares them with millions and millions images in Yandex index and shows matching results.
Although this sounds quite complex, it only takes a second or two to get the results.
What is it good for?
The technology has been launched and tested is Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Although this feature has not reached the popularity of other Yandex services, people did find several cases when it proved to be useful:
- Finding out if the image (usually a photo) was used on other sites without permission.
- Checking images provided by retailers and travel agencies, when they advertise pictures of product / resorts that look too good to be true.
- Looking up pictures of various things simply to find out what they are.
- Finding images in better resolution or without cropping.
- Various shopping-related reasons.
For me personally the last two users cases seem the most useful.
Say, you need a picture for a presentation, but the ones you found are too small or too big one. Yandex reverse image search can supply you with all possible sizes and resolutions of it:
Or, say, you saw this really pretty bag on the web, but the store, where you found it, does not ship to your country (happens to me a lot, both in Sweden and in Russia!). With this new Yandex feature you can quickly see what other shops sell the same bag. Maybe you are lucky and one of them is able to deliver it to you.
Of course, being a computer technology, it is not perfect and not always 100% precise. The reverse image search works very well for images that are already hosted somewhere and indexed. I have done several tests with pictures I took myself, and Sibir have found matches for only about a half of them.
So my questions stayed unanswered:
What was that Spanish dish called again?
What is this weird bird called?
However I was able to identify the Colosseum :)
All in all the technology is pretty impressive, and unlike a lot of other cool futuristic ones, is actually useful. Try it out yourself! :)