Hands-On With Bing Visual Search

As one might expect, Visual Search is comprised of galleries, each an array of images pertaining to the subject being searched or, more appropriately, researched. Since the galleries have to be manually assembled, there are only a limited number currently available. Microsoft claims the number will continue to grow.

Clicking on a gallery brings up an image for each piece of related data. For instance, clicking on the Dog Breed gallery displays 161 pictures of dogs, initially sorted alphabetically. Hovering over each image temporarily fills in the Bing search field with the breed's name. Below the search field, a list of pertinent information is displayed. In this case -- size, coat length, exercise needs, etc.

As with other Bing searches, the list can be narrowed down with the use of filters listed along the left frame. Clicking on the image brings up a standard Bing results page.

Our initial testing proved Visual Search to work well. About the only caveat is that to use it, the Silverlight 3.0 plug-in (Microsoft's answer to Adobe Flash) must be installed.

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Since the galleries must be prepopulated by humans, we don't see this feature really turning Bing into the Google killer Microsoft might be looking for it to become. But to help make decisions, especially before purchasing something, Visual Search really makes it easier to find what you're looking for.

When the feature goes live, performing a search in Bing will offer a link to the respective gallery when one exists. Until then, the beta can be found at http://www.bing.com/visualsearch.