Is Google really Professor Marvel? The new Image Search unmasked

21 Jun

Last week saw Google unveil some exciting new developments with their Inside Search 2011 talk.

One of them caught my eye – the amazing Google Image Search. As you can see from the video below, the guys from Google upload an unindexed image of a solitary figure on a barren landscape. Miraculously, they upload this image and Google instantly returns the name of the Greek Island where this was taken.


Pretty neat, huh? Google has become the Wizard of Oz – this is just amazing, unbelievable, too good to be true, right Toto? I thought I would find out….

Step 1 – let’s try and baffle Google

So, my first thought is to find out where I was when I took this photo. I took it more than 10 years ago somewhere in Albania. It would have been nice to find out where. But Google Image Search came up blank.

Somewhere in Albania


Step 2 – kinder, but still tough

So my next thought was to see if it could recognise the view from the top of Primrose Hill in London with a few people in the way.

Summer Solstice on Primrose Hill, London

So, I’m one of life’s optimists, and I’m fairly forgiving. Maybe the buildings were a bit blurry and they may have changed in 10 years or more, so when Google Image Search returned no results, I figured it must be a problem with the image, so I was going to hand Google a gift on a plate…

Step 3 – don’t screw up, Google, this one’s a sitter

So I searched through my images and found one that it just couldn’t get wrong. No way. Just couldn’t.

Google: "West Ham United? Trevor Brooking Stand? Nope. Nothing. Come on, throw me a freakin' bone here..."

Google dropped the ball. The SERPs included a few images of football stadia, but no West Ham. The claret and blue didn’t give it away, then?…

Step 4 – did I tell you I was an optimist?

So places are a no-no, but maybe an obscure product will get it. This time it got close, but no cigar…

"Beatles Get Back. Is that your final answer?"


So what should we make of all this?

It could be that it’s early days for the new TinEye Google Image Search and that I should be kind. But I keep coming back to that video. How on earth did it recognise some tiny island in the middle of nowhere with no reference points, but couldn’t get Primrose Hill, or Upton Park?

Google acts like the Wizard of Oz, showing us wondrous things with spectacle and bluster whilst acting like Professor Marvel – we’ll release this next week or the week after so no-one feels too disappointed when it doesn’t work as expected.

Well I feel disappointed, Google.

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