Visual search, with an iTunes-like visual scrolling (Cover Flow), seems like a the logical next step in the user-interface of search. searchme.com shows off an excellent demo of their visual approach.
Is this the next killer app? Should Google be concerned? It’s too early to tell how this will work in real life settings. Like the, thumbnail-focused www.pixsy.com, searchme believes that the future of search is visual.
The history of visual approaches to search, including 3D flythroughs and other graphical models, has been littered with failure. VRML comes to mind, in the 1990s this was going to be “next-gen” the 3D web. In early-2008, with broadband and ubiquitous dual-core cpu power, we still have not seen a visual approach to user-interface gain much traction in the marketplace. (The desktop metaphor–invented at Parc in the early ’80s, popularized by Apple, and copied by Microsoft–has been the last major epoch in user-interface development. We really haven’t moved much past overlapping windows in the past 28 years.)
Enabled by Adobe’s® Flex 3® software Searchme emphasizes that their technology is more than a slick UI.
“The Searchme visual search engine, which leverages the power and ubiquity of Adobe Flash™ software and Adobe Flex, is an innovative rich Internet application that could help fundamentally change the Internet search experience,” said Chris Rogers, West Region Leader, Adobe Consulting at Adobe. “It’s more than a slick UI; it’s an engaging search experience that emphasizes relevance and usability to help users more easily find what they’re looking for on the Web.” [press release]
I believe that people think primarily in verbal concepts, our brain has uniquely evolved to the complex task of reading in ways that cognitive neuroscientists like Dr. Maryanne Wolf are just now discovering. While, plain text is not as sexy as animated flipping thumbnails, I believe that relevance and simplicity are still king.