A look into the TinEye…

Years ago, the introduction of Google Image search changed the way you looked for pictures online. Before Google Images you were forced to search for web pages, find a result and then hope it had a picture on it that you could use.

Lather. Rinse. Pray. Repeat.
Often you would come up empty handed. It was hard enough when you were looking for a picture that fit your keywords (i.e. trying to find a piece of stock photography etc.)

But what about when you have a specific picture and want to find more information out about it? Where else is it used, who’s is it, has it been photoshopped? The list goes on. How do you describe the picture to Google in a way that would allow you to find its source?

Describing a random image to an image search site using only words is a crap shoot at best. Sure you might luck into the exact keywords that somene else used to describe the picture but there’s still a very good chance that you’ll have to wade through dozens upon dozens of search results to find the needle in the haystack.

Enter TinEye.
TinEye is the latest release from Toronto’s Idée. Idée is easily, and inexplicably, one of Toronto’s best kept tech secrets. Building cutting edge image search and recognition tools for close to ten years partners Leila Boujnane & Paul Bloore have built an impressive company that works with some of the world’s largest media & creative organizations. Their other products, PixID and Piximilar, both caused jaws to drop when demoed and there’s a good chance you’ve unknowingly used their technology in the past (i.e. Digg uses Idée’s technology to watch for duplicate image submissions).

So What is TinEye?
Basically, it’s an image search engine that uses images as it’s query: give it an image and it will tell you where the image appears on the web.

Idee put together this quick video with Amber MacArthur that is a great introduction:

A Real Word Example
The video gives a great introduction but let me take a moment to put the technology in some real world context for you:

A few weeks ago my friend Sean Howard twittered:

With a link to this image:

Now ordinarily this could suck up hours of time querying Google images etc., hoping to land on a page with this image…

Instead I right-clicked on it, selected “Search this image on TinEye” and in the span of mere seconds I had multiple results, the first of which took me to a page that had more information about who created the work.


Total time from Sean asking to me being able to respond was less than five minutes (and it only took that long because I had to look up my Tineye password!)

Right now, their system is indexing just shy of half a BILLION images but that number is steadily growing. TinEye is in limited BETA but I was able to score a few invites for my readers. If you’d like to play with TinEye drop me an email at first.last@gmail.com or message me on twitter (ryancoleman) with your email address and I’ll get you an invite.

BTW: The image is by a team of artists know as “eboy