Microsoft gave Office’s integrated, Bing-powered image search a major overhaul this week.
Now, when looking for images to include in PowerPoint, Outlook, Word, Excel, InfoPath, OneNote, Publisher and Visio, the Bing image-selection window displays a grid of thumbnail images, mimicking the search engine’s online image search results page on the Web. The updated feature appears as Online Pictures under the familiar Insert menu item.
“To see the source and size of the image, just hover over it,” instructed the Bing team in a blog post. “You can view images that have been tagged as subject to certain license restrictions, or view all web images, depending on your needs and circumstances.”
In Microsoft Edge, the default Web browser for Windows 10, the company’s Cortana virtual assistant technology is lending a hand.
Users can now right-click on an image and use the new Ask Cortana option—it will appear as Bing Lookup for users that have disabled Cortana—to view more information about the image. Within the same window, Edge will display information about an image’s dimensions, the online availability of other sizes and related images, among other details. For example, images of food will point to recipes while products may show shopping options.
Bing’s image match capabilities have also been upgraded. The Bing Image Search home page now displays an Image Search icon to the right of the search box. Users can input an image URL or upload an image file from their PCs to track a picture’s origins, view related searches and discover similar images floating around the Web.
Last month, just before the Academy Awards, Microsoft launched an Oscar nominee lookalike site, CelebsLike.me, powered by Bing image search. Users were encouraged to upload a picture of themselves, or search for one online, to see which Oscar contenders they resemble, along with a handful of other celebrities.
The site employs Cortana Analytics’ face and vision APIs, Bing’s image graph and the Bing Satori knowledge graph of people and world facts to draw its comparisons. Its image recognition performance improves as more celebrity images appear online and more visitors seek out their famous doppelgangers.
Microsoft isn’t alone in bulking up its image search and analytics capabilities. Last month, Google released its Cloud Vision API (application programming interface), enabling developers to add image recognition capabilities to their applications.
Cloud Vision API incorporates Google’s TensorFlow machine-learning tech that powers image search in Google Photos, among other services. Supported scenarios include detecting objects and landmarks and extracting text from photos (optical character recognition) with automatic language detection.
The API is already being put through its paces by PhotoFy, maker of a social photo editing and branding app. PhotoFy moderates over 150,000 photos per day and uses Cloud Vision API to flag adult content and potentially inappropriate images. YikYak, a location-based social network, analyzed over a million images, using the API’s object and text detection capabilities.