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Google's new search feature helps users sort through photos

Media IndustryJennifer Lopez

Not to be outdone by Flickr’s upgrade to 1 terabyte of storage this week, Google has pushed out another feature for its Google+ photo-sharing service.

Google’s computers will scan images that a user uploads to his or her Google+ account and figure out what’s in the photo. When that user is signed in and searches Google with a query such as "my photos of grass," images the user has uploaded that contain grass will pop up at the top of normal search results.

The user doesn’t need to tag or describe pictures beforehand for the search feature to work. Google seems to be able to recognize people in pictures too, provided that the person is a friend on Google+ and has a profile picture.

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In my testing, the feature was perfect when it recognized a query. But it couldn’t pick up that a lightning bolt on a white helmet should have come up in a search for “my photos of San Diego Chargers.”

The ability to easily search through photos could entice more users a try out Google+. Google executives have said they want to take away the hassle of organizing photos by shifting the burden to smart computers. Another recently announced feature picks the best photo out of a series.

Yahoo’s changes to Flickr made it more similar to Google+ because both now display larger versions of photos throughout the website. But Flickr lacks the recognition features of Facebook and Google+.

Google, meanwhile, isn’t just bringing photos into search results. The company’s Gmail team also announced Wednesday that calendar events and documents would show up alongside search results inside Gmail when relevant. The feature had been available to a limited number of users since last year.

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