Google (s goog) has their voice search, and to some extent, SnapTell and Amazon Mobile can return results based on images, but only within a very limited scope. What’s to be done if you have a picture of something that isn’t a DVD or a CD, or if you only have a picture in your head of what it is you’re looking for, but no actual photo to back it up?
Brand-new app GazoPa (free, iTunes link) from Hitachi is here to help you out. It’s an odd little application, but I was initially intrigued by the fact that you could basically search your doodles for similar images. By that, I mean actually draw on your iPhone or iPod touch’s screen, and then search the web for other pictures that look close. It’s like TinEye.com, but with the added bonus of a built-in touch tablet.
The web-based service that actually finds and returns results to the GazoPa app is still in beta, so you’ll need to have an account to use it, but I was sent an invitation immediately after I entered my email address at their sign-up page. Once signed up, I tried it using my crude rendering of an NES controller, and the results I got were more fun than accurate, although I didn’t take into account the fact that GazoPa uses color to determine results as well as shapes. My attempts with an SNES controller returned mostly track lighting, but again, my skills as an artist might be more to blame here.
Trying out the camera and album modes produced even more bizarre results. A photo of me holding up my Apple (s aapl) wireless keyboard returned buildings and women in dresses, and a recent Threadless t-shirt design taken from the app Threads brought back a lot of Soviet hammer & sickle images. But I have to admit that after looking at them for a while, they were undeniably similar in terms of color, composition and geometry.
Finding those kinds of images, though maybe not so useful for someone looking to find the name of something specific, are very handy if you happen to work in graphic design or you’re working on an art project. Thanks to the Shuffle feature, which just returns a bunch of random image results, it’s also a great way to try to find inspiration or a visual prompt if you’re totally stuck for ideas. It’s not a bad doodling app, either, and it’s free, which is more than can be said for most others.
More and more I’m leaning towards these kinds of apps for the iPhone, the ones that do slightly ludicrous and whimsical things that are only possible using Apple’s unique hardware.