Pinterest introduces a new visual search tool

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Credit: Pinterest

Pinterest has introduced a new visual search feature that allows its users to identify specific objects shown in the images people collect and share on its site.

The tool works by allowing people to select a portion of an image — presumably centered on whatever they wish to learn more about — and searching for similar images. It’s basically Google’s Image Search built right into Pinterest’s service.

Pinterest engineering manager Kevin Jing says in the blog post announcing the visual search feature that it can be used to identify everything from a lamp hanging in a kitchen to the pair of shoes worn by the subject of a photo-shoot.

In a post on the company’s engineering blog, Pinterest’s Andrew Zhai explains that the company partnered with members of the Berkeley Vision and Learning Center to develop the technologies that allow this visual search tool to function.

This new feature comes hot on the heels of a dedicated shop from which Pinterest users can purchase items from brands like Nordstrom and the Heist. It isn’t hard to see how the search and commerce-related features might collide.

To use the example from Pinterest’s blog posts: Imagine someone likes a lamp they see in a pin. After using the new search tool to find more information about the lamp, they decide they want to buy it. So they click a “buyable pin” to do so.

That process is much easier than it used to be. That same shopper would’ve had to use Google’s image search after cropping out the irrelevant parts of the “pin,” found an item, and then looked for a store that sold the damned light fixture.

Pinterest, as I noted in my post about its new shopping section, doesn’t currently make money from brands that sell items through its service. That will change — and when it does, search features like this one will help it sell more products.

Until then this is just an interesting feature that will make it easier for Pinterest users to learn more about an image without ever having to leave Pinterest’s site or mobile apps. Let the Pinterest-addicted lamp-seekers of the world rejoice!

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