The Friday Fillip

Idée, a Toronto-based IT company, is anything but fixe: it’s all about shifting shapes — and colours. They have developed really good image identification and visual search software, used by industry for a bunch of things, including searching the net for pirated copies of copyright images. But there’s fun to be had as well, so we’ll introduce a few of the niftier aspects of their products as featured in their open-to-the-public idée labs.

First up is Multicolr Search. The online demo extracts the colours from 10 million Flickr photos to let you assemble a matrix of 50 thumbnails that all feature the same colour or combination of colours. The effect is beautiful and delightful. Because it’s Halloween, I’ve chosen orange and black as the colours. (And because it’s Halloweeen, I’ve skewed the strip of thumbnails to add a bit of pizzazz.)


Give it a go. I think you’ll be fascinated. There’s something astonishing about seeing the identical colours in such a wild variety of forms and locales. And it’s fun to try to pick colour combos that compel a similarity in photos.

cactus.jpgThen have a boo at BYO Image Search, where you upload a pic of your choosing and see what idée can find by way of similars from the Alamy database of photos. I uploaded a photo of a cactus in bloom in my garden, which you can see to the left.

The resultant matrix wasn’t bad. It got the colours right — of course — and it sussed that this was plant material, which is pretty good, I think:


simon_test.jpgsunset.jpgOf course, it doesn’t always figure out what’s going on. I shipped it this shot of me, shown here at the left as a thumbnail image, and although a lot of the pics in the resultant matrix showed people, most seemed to key off the colours. So I gather I resemble various landscapes, including the glorious sunset shown here at the right.

On a day when the Globe and Mail carried a story about some council or other giving Canada a D grade for innovation, it’s good to celebrate what this truly innovative Canadian startup is doing — and have some fun on a Friday, too.


  1. Before I ever heard of Idée, I heard Leila Boujnane, their co-founder and CEO, speak last year at my first Toronto Girl Geek Dinner. She is extremely smart and a real fire-cracker. I am pleased to see the fantastic progress of Idée over the past year.

  2. Being in the eDiscovery field, the first thing that popped into my head as soon as I read this was what a great tool for searching for relevant images in litigation matters. Not that it would necessarily be able to tell a relevant blueprint from a non-relevant blueprint, but I can see its potential usefulness in, say, locating Excel charts that have been converted to image-only PDF’s. Or finding “inappropriate” photos squirreled away on some obscure corner of a business’s IT network.