eBay Announces Image Search Feature Coming to iOS App This Fall

eBay today announced two new features coming to its mobile apps this fall, called "Image Search" and "Find it on eBay," both of which leverage photography and images to fuel the discovery of new products on eBay. The company said that both new features use computer vision and deep learning to be able to find matching product listings using only images.

Image Search will be coming to iOS and Android, and allows users to take a picture of something they want to buy -- or upload an existing image from the Camera Roll -- and use it as a search tool that sifts through more than 1.1 billion eBay listings to find items that match. Find it on eBay will be Android-only at launch, and it allows shoppers on other social networks to tap a "share" card and upload the image of a product, crop it, and use it as a search tool within the eBay app.

“Moments of shopping inspiration can come at any time, whether you’re walking down the street or browsing your social media feed,” said Mohan Patt, Vice President of Buyer Experience, eBay. “At eBay, we’re focused on creating new complementary technology that helps our millions of shoppers easily find the things they love at the best value. eBay Image Search and Find It On eBay make it possible for people to shop eBay using any image or photo that inspires them.”
The company said it developed Image Search during its internal "Hack Week," an annual company-wide challenge that pits employees against one another in a friendly competition to discover ways to bolster eBay's marketplace using new technology. The team that had the idea for Image Search won Hack Week in 2015 and has added more members and built upon its original features in the subsequent years, with eBay noting it expects "to launch more computer vision products in the coming months."

eBay hopes the new image-focused search features will help reduce the time users spend searching for items on its marketplace with a more seamless solution, as well as occasionally present buyers with new and unexpected items that wouldn't have been discovered using traditional text searches.

Pinterest launched a similar feature earlier this year called "Lens," letting users take pictures of real-world objects to use as a search tool for related products and images on the Pinterest website and app. At the time, Pinterest noted that Lens worked best with home decor, clothing, and food, but the company said it will make continual improvements so the app can learn to recognize new items.

For its app, eBay didn't say whether specific items work best with Image Search and Find it on eBay, but today's press releases are heavily focused on clothing items. Both features will begin rolling out to eBay's mobile apps sometime this fall.

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