June 15, 2011 at 3:29 PM ET
Google's new search-by-image feature launched with enough kinks to start a '60s rock band, not least of all that it isn't so hot at identifying pictures. Sure, when uploading a cropped shot of the Chrysler Building, you get more tight shots of ... the Chrysler Building. But when we uploaded a picture of Obama? Its "best guess" was George W. Bush.
Here's the full page, for your perusal:
Try it for yourself (but be prepared for it to choke on larger picture files). Besides identifying landmarks that any 4th grader should be able to name, its most consistent capability is color matching: Upload a shot taken diving or snorkeling, and you get a lot more non-specific undersea shots. A pic of your cat or dog won't yield more cats or dogs, but it will bring up photos with almost exactly the same color scheme, and in many cases similar composition.
My favorite is the tip that always comes up: "Tip: Try entering a descriptive word in the search box." Oh, you mean, "try doing a text search instead"?
Look, I know that image searching is really really hard, and even stuff like Faces on iPhoto takes monstrous amounts of processor power just to work (and that only looks at relative faces in your photo catalog). I'm just saying, hey, if your imaging system can't tell Bush from Obama, maybe it's not ready for prime time.
Special thanks to msnbc.com multimedia editor Rich Shulman for discovering the Obama/Bush collision.
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