Google unveils voice search for desktop, smarter image search

Get ready for a microphone in Google's search box that lets you say something and see the results. Google is also set to offer a search-by-image feature.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

Google's new Search By Image.
Google's new Search By Image. CNET

Google has added new voice and image search functionality to its desktop search service.

The search box will now feature a microphone that, when clicked, allows people to speak a query. The announcement, made at the company's Inside Search event in San Francisco, is part of Google's wider strategy to bring "mobile innovations" to its desktop search. Voice search has already been part of the company's mobile search application but until now has not been available in a regular browser on one's desktop. That feature begins rolling out today for use in Chrome only, and it will only work for English language searches at launch.

Soon, too, when a person wants to search with the help of an image, he can drag and drop, upload, or copy and paste that image into the search box. Once the image is placed into the search box, the service delivers results related to the picture. An image of a location, for example, will tell users where it is and provide relevant links about it.

To add some more flavor to the service, Google also offers "visually similar images," allowing users to see photos that look the same.

In order to determine results for an image, Google compares information in the image to the "billions" of photos it currently has in its database.

Speaking during a question-and-answer session following today's event, Google said that its Image By Search service will not perform facial recognition, and none of the uploaded photos will be made public.

A global rollout of the Search By Image feature begins today and will work in 40 languages. That feature is also available only in Chrome. However, Google said it is releasing extensions for both Chrome and Firefox that will let people right-click on any image on the Web in order to search for more information about it.

Update at 10:40 a.m. PT and at 11:48 a.m. PT to include more details.

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