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There has been an amazing amount of feedback on retrievr, both streaming in via mail as well as on weblogs and link sharing services (i.e. del.icio.us).
There are some interesting pointers to related research (and music search!) in the comments to John Battelle's post.
Also I found out that the folks who worked on FMRIQ at the University of Washington actually tried to commercialize the technology through a startup called Numinous; it later disappeared into Microsoft.
Alf Eaton linked to Idée, who (in his words) "have been doing what retrievr does - and much more - for a long time", albeit it might be more accurate to say that they do what FMRIQ can do as well; at least I couldn't find anything resembling search-by-sketch (which I consider the most important aspect of retrievr). Update: Alf pointed me to Espion's feature list and this 2001 Seybold Report, which mentions search-by-sketch as one of Espions core features; interestingly, Espion is also part of Photoshop Elements. However, they don't seem to have an online demo of the search-by-sketch functionality available, which is both what I was actually looking for and a pity.
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