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Bing shines Silverlight on visual search

Flippin' images

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Microsoft's Bing search engine will use the company's Silverlight browser-based media player to change the way it presents images of results.

The company has unveiled a feature it calls Visual Search that presents images, then allows you to scroll through them and eliminate pictures to refine your search.

Like Google, Bing already lets you search images, so visual search is not a new idea. Microsoft's search engine, in fact, made quite a name for itself at launch for the way it pulls in video, allowing you to play porn using a 30-second preview that sidesteps smut filters.

The difference with the new Visual Search is the way images are presented. You'll also need to download and install Microsoft's Silverlight player before you can use the feature, however.

You can view a silent demonstration of Visual Search below.

Microsoft said on its Bing blog that its research showed that consumers process results 20 per cent faster than with text-only results. "It's clear images play a big part in helping consumers with a variety of search activities," the company said.

Redmond has made much of Bing's suitability for business, and has tailored results to specific domains in addition to general search, focusing on travel and shopping.

The Visual Search beta covers cars, books, and "products", although Microsoft promised it will expand the "Visual Search experience" during the coming months. There was no word on when the beta would be made available.

Microsoft last week gave employees a peek of what's coming in Bing at its annual company day out, where chief executive Steve Ballmer simulated stomping on an iPhone. ®

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