Friday, May 4, 2018

Answer: What do these symbols mean?

Symbols are SUPPOSED to be easy...  

But as we found out this week, if you don't already know what a symbol means, it's sometimes difficult to figure it out.   
For instance, this symbol means biohazard.    

And this one is easy to search for:  A search-by-image of the above symbol quickly leads you to the best guess for this image, "Biohazard symbol."  You can click on the Wikipedia link, which takes you to an Internet Archive page with the history of this symbol's development.  (Interestingly, the symbol's designer, is quoted as saying that "...".)  You can hear a great 99%-invisible article, but NOT a podcast, on this topic at their Biohazard.  


1.  This blue cross (it really IS blue) with a stick and a snake that I found on an inside wall:  What does it mean?  Where would you normally see this?  How important is this to me?  Here's a photo I found in a building:  

Interestingly, the search-by-image method doesn't work on this picture.  If you modify the query by adding the term "medical"  (which you could guess at because this is clearly some kind of medical symbol with the Rod of Asclepius--an easy search with [ rod snake symbol ])

As you can see, there's a hit in the "Visually similar images."  When you visit that page, you learn that it's called an "Emergency star"  (although notice that this hit has a caduceus, with 2 snakes, a symbol we've talked about before).  
Next I did a search for: 
     [ emergency star blue snake symbol ] 
and found this: 
It's easy to find that this is the "Star of Life," originally designed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and trademarked in 1977.  Since then, it’s become the general symbol for emergency medical services. At the middle is the Rod of Asclepius, whose name in invoked in the original Hippocratic Oath. 

Around the staff and snake are the six points of the Star of Life, each point signifying the stages of EMS care: detection ; reporting (e.g. dialing 911); response; on-scene care; care in transit (the ambulance); and transfer to definitive care (a hospital, typically).

And, in particular, I found this symbol on the wall of an elevator where it means that the elevator is big enough to hold a stretcher. 

2.  Here's another symbol--a box with arrow.  The only clue I have about this is that it was in a parking lot... on the ground, shown on top of a plastic traffic dot that's cemented to the ground.  What does this mean? 

This turned out to be a bit tricky.  
The obvious image search trick doesn't work, and even the subimaging trick we've used before doesn't work, primarily because the image is too small.  (When you clip the image to just the symbol, it's less than 100 X 100 pixels, which is hard to search.)  
I re-drew this using Google Drawings and created an image that looked like this: 
And THEN did a search-by-image.  
Didn't work. It got close, but nothing exactly right... 
So I kept modifying the query after the Search-by-image until I tried:  [ box arrow logo ] and found this as the Visually similar images: 

This is great, but there are lots of near misses, and nothing exactly like what I was looking for.  Here's the nearest miss I found, at a site called IconFinder!  
I fooled around a lot like this, and ended up trying many different combinations, all to no avail.  Finally, I took the image into Photoshop and did a bunch of filtering to extract a version of the image that looks like this:  
I searched for this, and found (on page 2) a link to the page I was seeking.  
When I saw Luís Miguel's solution in the comments, I thought I'd give him the floor here and describe more-or-less the same solution (but without Photoshop).  
Regular Reader Luís Miguel Viterbo writes: 

1. Zooming on image, on Chrome. I'm using an installed extension for this: Enhanced Image Viewer.
2. Grabbing and free-hand clipping the image with an installed app I use quite often: PicPick (this does screen captures of all kinds, but it's also a color picker, a pixel ruler, a protractor and more). 
3. Finding some online tool that stencils an image. My first Google Search result of [ image stencil generator ] is Rapid Resizer. I had to play with the different options to get a good result: I found "Thin", very "Dark" and totally "Sharp" yielded the best results. (The following image is worse than the one I go in my first try, which is the one I used for the next manipulation, but I didn't save it.)  [DMR: Note that Miguel made this a 621 X 587 pixel image; larger than the original clipped image.]  
4. Opening this image in Paint and cleaning (erasing) all that is not the outline.
5. Still in Paint, I tried to first fill the interior spaces using the Paint Bucket but it didn't work because edges are not continuous. So I had to draw thick lines over those that were already there. Straight lines and small curves at the corners. Finally, I filled the interior with black color to give me this: 
I find GIMP and Photoshop too unfriendly and their learning curve is terrible, so that's why I don't use anything other than these basic tools whenever I need. And I don't need them very often anyway.

6.  The unproductive "symbol" and "icon" search descriptions may very well have happened in my first search a week ago. I probably tried "parking", because it was in your description. I doubt remember having tried "traffic", which it's the only other word in your description that might be relevant. So my guess / half recollection is that my manipulated image, together with the descriptor "parking", yielded the OttoQ symbol. 
All of this finally gets you to this page by designer Nitin Prakash, which has the intriguing logo design: 

Ah ha!  This looks a lot like the logo we see on the traffic dot.  A quick search for: 
     [ "OttoQ" ] 
tells us that was a company that did real time parking data collection via OttoQ’s proprietary detection hardware (the dot seen above).  

And then, if you click on Image search, you'll see more of the answer: 

As Regular Reader Remmij pointed out, Ottoq seems to be out-of-business these days.  

Let me show you another photo I took that day: 

With this additional bit of context (there's one dot per parking space), it's clear this is a traffic management solution.  

3.  And lastly, a symbol that I've found on the side of a few walls in the city.  What could this possibly mean? 

Here a Search-by-image works pretty well, leading us to several sites (here's one) telling us that this is a Siamese Connection marker.  (And what is a Siamese Connection?  Easy: [define Siamese Connection] to find that it's "...a pipe fitting that allows two or more fire hoses to be connected to a single standpipe riser at the same general location. It is so-called due to the visual similarity to Siamese twins."  They can also be used by a fire truck to increase the water pressure of the automatic sprinkler system of the building.  
Here's what the connection below this sign looks like:  

That's what it looks like (next to a sprinkler alarm bell).  As noted by several Regular Readers, this seems to be primarily a Canadian symbol.  I found this one in Montreal, Canada, where having a sign like this would be incredibly handy during a snowy winter, when the connector might well be hidden below a snow drift. 

Search Lessons 

There are a couple I want to point out: 
1.  Sometimes you have to make a sketch (or Shop the image) to get to a version of the picture that Search-by-Image will recognize.  In this case, Luís Miguel walked us through how he transformed the image using freely available tools to create a sketch that works well.  
2.  It's worth looking up symbols when you notice them--they might be useful (especially if you're trying to get a stretcher down that elevator)!  

This was a tough one this week.  Next week.. something simpler, and just for fun! 

Search on!  

No comments:

Post a Comment