December 11, 2013

What is mobile visual search?

Written By Martin Sandhu

Although it’s probably not as common as it should be, visual search is a seriously useful feature when it comes to searching for things online. It allows users to simply drag an image into the search box to find where it has been used or images similar to it. It doesn’t sound like much, until you consider the scenarios when it becomes useful – for example if you have seen a picture of a landmark or building and want to know what and where it is, a text search could take some time but being able to use the image itself to find the information makes it much easier and quicker.

Visual search is available on mobiles too, as mobile technology has evolved into powerful image and video processing devices and are used frequently when out and about, it’s easy to understand how the technology is useful on such a device – take the building example again, users can simple take a photo of a building and use visual search to find information on it.

Such technology is now fairly common on desktop browsers, however it has yet to really take off on mobile devices – although there are many who believe it is about to and could be a serious challenge to text search.

Mobile app CamFind, uses mobile visual search to make it easy for shoppers to find more information about an item and where they can buy it. For instance, users can simply take a picture of an item, and the app identifies the product and tells users where they can find the best deal.

Speaking to news website, Business News Daily, Dominik Mazur CEO and co-founder of Image Searcher, Inc., who developed CamFind said – “CamFind’s interface does not only give price comparisons, but also information on any item that’s photographed. CamFind allows people to simply take a picture of a product to determine if they are getting the best deal in the store.”

This type of technology can have a huge impact on retailers in particular, but it needn’t be seen as something external. Retailers should be considering building this type of technology into their apps. Often a text search for an item of clothing for example can be frustrating as users describe things in a different way to the retailers themselves. It may also be the case that shoppers are looking for a similar item, rather than the exact one – for example if a celebrity is seen in a designer dress a shopper may use the picture to search for the closest possible match from their favourite high street retailer.

The possibilities when it comes to mobile visual search are exciting, particularly for retailers, however getting users to switch from text to image searching could be where the challenge lies.