Use visual search to find information about objects in photos

Using AI, it is possible to identify objects in photos and use them as the basis of searches to get information about them. Point your phone at something and see a description and more.

Imagine standing in front of a well-known landmark and you may wonder who built it, when it was built or why. You could be in an art gallery in front of a famous painting and would like to know more about the painting or artist. You can simply take a photo with your phone and see the information you want.

You see a flower, plant or tree and wonder what type it is. You see a well-known building, but want to know more about it. Just take a photo and you can instantly see details about the subject of photos. AI can be used to analyze a photo and to detect and identify the objects within it. Knowing what is in a photo enables searches to be performed for information about it.

You may be wondering how this can be achieved on a phone and there are several apps for Android and iOS that can do this trick, but one you may not expect is Microsoft OneDrive. Yes, the app for managing your online storage can analyze photos, detect the subject of the image, and provide detailed information about it.

It is a brilliant feature and using it could not be simpler. Just point your phone, take a photo, open it in OneDrive and analyze it for recognizable objects. Searches are then automatically performed and you can view the results.

OneDrive is free, although storage is limited, but you can buy more or delete the photos after analyzing them to keep within your free space. I have been with OneDrive since the start and have 50 GB of free space, thanks to various offers over the years, so I don’t have any storage issues.

At the moment, this feature is available in OneDrive for Android, but not iOS. Presumably it will come to the iPhone soon.

View photos in OneDrive

Viewing photos in the OneDrive app on a phone

Open the OneDrive app on your phone (I am using an Android phone), tap the Files icon at the bottom of the screen and find some photos. The Pictures folder is the most likely place to find some of course. Here you can see a few of my photos. They are ones that I have been experimenting with and have applied some fancy filters and effects, so it will be interesting to see how this will affect the results. Tap a photo.

2 View a photo on OneDrive

Viewing a photo on OneDrive using the OneDrive Android app

Tapping a photo in OneDrive opens it and there are icons to access useful tools at the bottom of the screen. One you may not have noticed is Visual Search. Tap it to begin.

3 Privacy notice

OneDrive image search notice

The first time the Visual Search feature is used in OneDrive, a privacy message is displayed on the screen. Basically, the image is searched for using Microsoft News and Bing. Privacy is not really an issue because the only subjects you are likely to use this feature for are public anyway, like paintings, plants, well-known buildings, tourist attractions and so on. Tap the Agree button to continue.

4 Search results

OneDrive image search results in the OneDrive Android app

Even though this photo had various filters and effects applied to it, OneDrive still managed to identify it and display useful background information. In this case, it found a Wikipedia entry on the subject of the photo, which is a building. It is quite a distinctive building, but I was still impressed that it found it.

Only a brief summary of information is displayed, but you can show more by tapping the See More link. There are also similar photos below, which you can also browse. This feature is very useful when you are sightseeing on a trip or holiday and you can get more information on the places you visit and the things you see.

5 More searches and results

OneDrive photo search using the OneDrive app on an Android phone

Here is a photo of a steam train I took and uploaded to the Pictures folder on OneDrive. The app correctly identified the type of train and showed a collection of similar images of steam trains. There are also options to see more general information, like Locomotive and Diesel Train using the buttons below the main image.

Identifying a flower using the OneDrive app on an Android phone

Have you ever seen a nice flower and wondered what it is? Here I took a photo of a flower and uploaded it to OneDrive Pictures folder – you can set uploads to automatic in the OneDrive app. The Visual Search feature has identified the plant and has displayed useful information and similar images.

The ability of OneDrive to identify the subject of images and to display useful information about it is very useful. It is not unique to OneDrive and there are other ways to do this, however, it is especially useful if you already use OneDrive to store photos. It isn’t something you need to use with every photo, but occasionally, such as when visiting places, trips and holidays, it can be very useful.

Leave a Reply