Net Journal 8
Search engine that can search for images without keywords
――What kinds of features do Image Vortex and Video Vortex have?
Haseyama: What is most characteristic about these technologies is that keyword input is not necessary. For example, suppose you’re searching for a photo of Hokkaido’s beautiful scenery. With existing search services, photos are manually tagged with different types of data (like date and place of the photo) and keywords such as “grassland,” “mountains,” and “blue sky.” You then conduct a search by inputting words (keywords) that are close in description to an image you have in your head. However, because human senses are very vague, what you really look for are images described by words like “exhilarating” and “scenery where I can feel the wind.” After all, you don’t have a concrete image in mind in the first place. Image Vortex and Video Vortex are effective in such cases when you cannot conduct a search using explicit queries (keywords-based questions and images).
With Image Vortex, features (colors, patterns, contours of objects, positions on the screen) computed from images in a database are converted into numerical values, enabling the technology to automatically recognize the kind of image, including its content, from its feature quantities. Furthermore, by comparing the feature quantities of each image, similar and dissimilar images can be distinguished. The differences between two images can be expressed as a distance (Explanation 1/Figure 1). The user can view groups of images floating in 3D space on the interface, and drill down to the images they are looking for. A service that applies Image Vortex, called Image Cruiser （http://imagecruiser.jp/） is already available.
Video Vortex （Explanation 2/Figure 2) is an interface for videos. It integrates characteristics of a video such as images, sounds, music, and text to search and recommend similar videos. This system can make adjustments on “what is visually similar” and “what is acoustically similar” based on user preferences to bring the user to his or her desired video more efficiently. Also, by incorporating similarities in sound and music, Video Vortex can recommend videos in completely different genres, bringing about new discoveries and realizations that surpass the user’s expectations. We are also planning to offer Video Vortex as a commercial service.