Microsoft adds Visual Search to Bing

New tool lets users browse categories of images to find what they're looking for.

Bing Visual Search

Forget searching with words, Bing's newest trick is to let users search using pictures.

Microsoft's search engine now lets users browser through categories of images to find what they're looking for.

"How many times have you seen a movie trailer and forgotten the name of it the next day? You go online to search for it but you can't seem to find the movie with 'what's-his-name' in it anywhere but you can picture the actor in your head," asked Bing's Todd Schwartz on the official blog.

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Microsoft claimed its own research showed that a fifth of users "process" image-based results more quickly than text.

The Visual Search system works using what Schwartz called "data groupings galleries." For example, there's one for movies and another for books, letting a user scroll through galleries or select categories to further refine the grouping, such as by author.

Clicking on the iPhone apps gallery lets the images be organised by popularity, cost, release date and name, while the images can be further refined by clicking categories such as top apps, free, paid for, newest, most expensive and type.

Bing Visual Search iPhone apps

At present, there are 39 main groupings including travel destinations, dog breeds and celebrities. Schwartz compared the galleries to a catalogue, keeping with Bing's focus on helping consumers with their shopping.

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Visual Search requires Microsoft's Silverlight, and Schwartz noted that it's still in beta phase, with more features expected to be rolled out over the next few months. It checked out on the Bing site here, but only if you're using the US version of the site - it's not yet live in the UK.

Click here to find out how Bing's done over its first three months and here to have your say in our Bing search debate channel.

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