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eBay launches computer vision search tools to find items using photos

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Back in July, eBay announced new computer vision search tools that help you find items using photos. Today, the ecommerce giant revealed that it’s making those features publicly available for the first time.

By way of a quick recap, computer vision allows machines to process and analyze imagery on a pixel-by-pixel basis, rather than leaning on human-led categorization data, such as keywords and descriptions. A few months back, eBay gave an early glimpse of two new tools that rely on computer vision smarts: Image Search and Find it on eBay.

Image Search allows you to capture a photo in real life from your smartphone camera and then use that image to find similar goods on eBay.

Above: eBay: Image Search

Find it on eBay, on the other hand, lets you select items on any third-party website, such as Facebook, Pinterest, or a blog — and share a URL with eBay to locate similar items. So, for example, you could zoom in on a scene in an online magazine to find a pair of shoes you really like.

Above: eBay: Find it on eBay

A number of companies are now doing some interesting things with computer vision. Earlier this month, stock photo giant Shutterstock debuted a pretty cool new “spatially aware” visual search tool that lets you find photos by composition, while Google Photos got more pet-friendly with a feature that groups your cat and dog photos automatically through image recognition. Facebook also lets you search for photos based on their content.

We already knew that eBay was investing heavily in artificial intelligence (AI), as it snapped up Israeli computer-vision company Corrigon earlier this year and last year launched ShopBot, a Facebook Messenger shopping bot designed to help you find the best deals. But we’re now beginning to see the first real fruits of this ongoing investment inside the main eBay app.

“Find it on eBay and Image Search are only the beginning,” a company spokesperson said. “As shoppers continue to search with pictures — instead of words — Find It On eBay and Image Search will get smarter, learn, and improve on the results that are surfaced.”

eBay’s Image Search is live on Android and iOS in the U.S. from this morning, while Find it on eBay is limited to Android for now.

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