Pinterest’s new visual search tool is like facial recognition … but for furniture. Just as Shazam lets you identify unfamiliar songs that you’re listening to, Pinterest now lets you identify unfamiliar objects, which as any DIY-er or crafter will tell you, absolutely essential to getting your next project off the ground.
As per Pinterest’s blog post about their “crazy-fun new” tool, “When you spot something in a Pin that you want to learn more about, tap the search tool in the corner. Then select the part of the Pin you’re interested in, and we’ll show you Pins just like it. You can even filter your visual search results by topic so you find exactly what you’re looking for.” Not bad, Pinterest.
Recognizing that we sometimes just don’t have the words to describe exactly what we’re looking for, Pinterest hopes that this new sight-driven search tool will serve as “a discovery engine” for its ever-growing user base. “This is building serendipity,” Michael Lopp, Pinterest’s head of engineering, told the Wall Street Journal. But there was little that was serendipitous about the amount of work that went into building this neat new feature — in fact, it took four Pinterest engineers months just to develop the core functionality of the tool, and the team worked closely with the Berkeley Vision and Learning Center in order to use deep learning technology to analyze billions of pins.
Deep learning, a technique commonly used in these sorts of endeavors, teaches computers how to notice patterns and correlations in huge sets of data to help them categorize the information, in this case, based on visual similarity.
“There are dozens of interesting items within a Pin’s image; we want to give Pinners a tool to learn more about these items,” Andrew Zhai, software engineer on Pinterest’s visual discovery team, said in an interview with The Telegraph. “By specifying a part of the image you’re interested in by using a cropping tool, we can recommend visually similar results in real time. We optimize on visual similarity, not just duplicates, to power Pinners to discover exact results, as well as unexpected results that may be similar in style or pattern or shape.”
You can try the visual search tool today for the first time, and while Pinterest notes that, as with any new technology, there may still be some initial difficulties, the company believes that users will be impressed. So pin away, friends. You never know where the tool may lead you.