Want to know what Google might come up with next to help consumers research products online? Well take a look at its latest purchase, visual search start-up Like.com.

At the start of the week, Like.com confirmed that it had been purchased by Google, several years after rumours emerged that the search giant was interested in the search minnow.

Like.com has developed technology which it says allows it to understand what terms like ‘red high heels’ mean, and from there create algorithms to decide what other products would match or clash.

In practice, this means you can visit the site and run a search on something like ‘black dress’ and pull up a page of black dresses from a variety of retailers. But to refine the search you can then do what Like.com calls visual search, clicking a button below a particular item which will bring up search results containing other products that are a similar colour, shape or pattern.

So, for example, if you see an item that you like, but can’t afford, the site will help you to find similar cheaper alternatives very quickly.

In comparison, Google’s product search is still very text focused. If you search here on ‘black dress’, results do show with pictures, but you will get everything from fancy dress, to kids’ clothes. And further revision of these results is limited to category, price and retailer. Not so great for those shoppers who don’t know what they are looking for until they see it.

Building the capability of Like.com into Google’s product search could give it what techies like to refer to as a killer app, especially when consumers become comfortable using it on a mobile device.