Retailers like Amazon and Target are rushing out mobile apps that allow you to snap an image of what you want to buy. Fred Katayama reports.
TV AND WEB RESTRICTIONS~****~ Even a thousand words sometimes just can't paint a picture. Say you don't know Jackson Pollock but need to find out who drew this. Describing it is a pain. To the rescue comes visual search. Google Images can give you the answer .. on your desktop. But now with the advent of mobile apps, you can use visual search for shopping. Adi Pinhas founded the visual search startup, Superfish. (SOUNDBITE) ADI PINHAS, CEO AND FOUNDER, SUPERFISH (ENGLISH), SAYING: "The world is a very visual place. And we have visual questions all day long. We see stuff around us. We want to learn who did that, is there similar thing? What can I learn more about it and so on?" Big retailers are rushing out mobile apps, so you can snap an image of what you want to buy. The Firefly feature built into Amazon's new smartphone recognizes 70 million products like Altoids mints, and gives you the option to buy it on Amazon. Target's test app, In a Snap, allows you to take pictures of products featured in select magazine ads and Target catalogs. But there are limitations. You're mostly restricted to shooting images of labeled items like books or flat, well defined objects, so forget that fluffy black puppy. And you can only buy things off their websites.. Enter Superfish. The visual search startup's technology recognizes 3D objects. Take its app, PetMatch. Here at Madison Square Park in Manhattan, I've come across this cute boxer named Lilly. I'm going to pull up my app, take Lilly's picture - say cheese! PetMatch's algorithms rummage through the database. Within seconds, up pops a series of pictures of dogs that resemble Lilly --all available for adoption in the New York area. And Superfish's LikeThat Decor app does ditto with couches and other furniture, hunting through its database of more than 30 million products at 5,000 retailers to suggest similar items. Google says the next hurdle is finding a way to search through video, taking advantage of the multiple frames captured for each object. Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru says ten years could pass before visual search delivers results consistent enough for it to become mainstream.. (SOUNDBITE) SUCHARITA MULPURU, ANALYST, FORRESTER RESEARCH (ENGLISH), SAYING: "It's a very complex computer science problem because what we're essentially asking is that a computer, an algorithm recognize an image from any direction under any lighting circumstances and presuming that the photo may not be a perfect photo, either. It could be taken from a distance or you know, the pixillation may not be that precise." Over the next six months, Superfish plans to launch shopping apps for shoes, jewelry, and gardening. (SOUNDBITE) ADI PINHAS, CEO AND FOUNDER, SUPERFISH (ENGLISH), SAYING: "Eventually, visual search is going to be a part of the platform; visual search is going to be in every browser, it's going to be a part of the camera in every mobile, and then it will do that. It'll do everything." One day, shopping could become as easy as snap, pick and pay.