picsbuffet is a new visual image browsing system that lets you explore and search millions of photographs through an interface that feels like Google Maps.
Developed by researchers HTW Berlin, the service groups photo search results into multiple layers. The highest level is least specific, and it contains all kinds of photos about all kinds of subjects. As you zoom in to a particular photo, the photos on each level are more and more similar to the photo you’re zooming into.
Clicking on a photo enlarges it and gives you a link to the source where it was found. A heatmap in the upper left corner of the screen shows you other areas of the layer where there may be relevant and interesting photos.
Here’s what a search for photographer looks like when starting from the highest level and then zooming into the photo “map”:
Here’s a video showing how picsbuffet works:
picsbuffet version 0.9 currently contains over 1 million stock photos found on Fotolia, and the service works with Chrome and Opera browsers. The team is planning to add more photo sources and more browser compatibility in future versions of the service. Head on over to picsbuffet if you’d like to try out the system for yourself.