Image databases are getting larger — and harder to search through. But a new beta program from 500px is taking a unique approach by allowing users to search not by keyword, but from a rough sketch. The search tool, called Splash, was released earlier today.
The search tool, which is currently available for only a select set of licensed images, uses a drawing to find similar images. Users draw on a blank canvas, choosing different colors and brush sizes, to sketch out what they are looking for. After making the sketch, images are quickly displayed in five different categories: landscapes, people, animals, travel, and city.
The program seems to work well at finding images with the colors in the same location — like drawing a rough sketch of a sunset and using the colors to determine if you want an orange sky or a purple one. The tool seems to pick up on lighting patterns well, recognizing what areas are lighter or darker than others in the image.
“This is a way of searching images that has never been done before,” said Kelly Thompson, 500px head of products. “Splash makes it much easier for creatives to find the exact image they are looking for on the 500px Marketplace.”
The beta system doesn’t yet seem advanced enough to pick up on the finer details. It’s designed more to draw out a gradient color pattern you are looking for than an object you could easily search for with a keyword. For example, a crummy drawing of a red car with black wheels showed sunset photos with red skies and black landscapes, so it’s much easier to search for “car.” Searching for a specific color or lighting pattern instead of an object, on the other hand, is harder to do with a keyword. The new tool makes finding images with specific colors simpler.
The search tool was created with the company’s machine learning initiative, 500px Labs, and is currently available for testing.