Microsoft’s Bing now with an added ‘visual search’ function.
Microsoft’s battle with Google, the search engine giant seems to have received a much needed boost with the adding of a new feature by Microsoft to its Bing search engine. This feature which is still in the beta stage is called Visual search and provides users with a unique alternative to the usual list of blue colored links that appear when you, for example, run a search on sports, toy airplanes or other products. This new feature has been announced by one of the senior vice-presidents of Microsoft; Yusuf Mehdi at a conference on technology in San Francisco called The Tech Crunch 50.The new feature, in place of the usual blue links, will come up with a neat row of images that can be conveniently scrolled through for which the interface has been made sufficiently smooth. Here’s an illustration on what to expect. If you ran a search on Bing for a handbag or a certain yoga posture, you will initially get the same results as a normal search engine but in the left hand column is an option that will result in visual images as search results. Through this link, one can experience the new feature which by providing images, will in certain cases make the search results more efficient and quick in providing you with the info you were looking for. The feature also comes with refinement options which will help you narrow down your search by displaying images specific to your search by such criteria as, for example, price or movie theater or in case your subject of search was sports, then a team.
For a peek at this new feature, you can clink on this link which will take you to the Bing preview page.
Microsoft has said that Bing’s new visual search feature will be incorporated in the search engine in a phased manner with some users getting it sooner than others. Microsoft intends to make this feature available to all its Bing users by september end. With Google’s search engine controlling over 65% of market share, Microsoft has a lot of scope to gain some ground and with Bing, they have seen some moderate success with a 9% hold of the search engine arena. Yahoo holds a modest 19% share of the search engine market but still far away from Google’s clear monopoly. (With a combined share of 27%, Yahoo and Microsoft are still dwarfed by Google’s massive popularity)
Visual Search – A closer look
Here’s a hands on look at the new feature for a more lucid understanding. After running a search on Bing for cars, 25 images of cars appear on your screen and you and scrolling through them is made a pleasurable experience by the improved interface which allows for smooth scrolling. You can browse through scores of images without any fatigue resulting from the scrolling action. Another interesting part is, on hovering over the image of a particular car, a balloon pops up which provides additional info about the car and when you click on it, you are taken to the search results for that particular model or price range depending on the criterion of your search.
The flipside to this otherwise interesting addition seems to be that it is only available for the most popular searches. Meaning Microsoft does not have a system in place that can produce images for all searches on an ad-hoc basis but what Microsoft has done is, it has created these results for those searches that it deems most popular. Run a search on laptop or cell phones and no such feature is visible.
Microsoft plans to expand this feature to other search terms as well once it can recognize what items are searched for the most and also on whether Bing users are actually finding it useful.