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eBay is about to revolutionise online shopping like Shazam did for music

eBay’s new computer vision program will let you search for products using images.

Earlier this year, the online shopping giant eBay let slip its plans to implement two new computer vision features - 'Find it on eBay' and an Image Search function. Similar to the way Shazam invented a whole new way to find and identify music through hearing it, eBay has come up with these features so shoppers can readily find the items on the shop they see elsewhere.

The article linked provides a quick recap lesson on computer vision. In a basic sense, computer vision allows machines to process and analyse images pixel-by-pixel, an alternative to relying on human-led categorisation data, such as keywords, tags and product descriptions. 

So what do we think of the two new features?

The image search is similar to features already out there on other sites. It allows a photo to be taken in real life and then finds similar goods on the online shop - eBay. The photo below makes more sense of this. 

And the other feature, 'Find it on eBay', does exactly that - it lets you find items you may have seen on any third-party site - ie Facebook, Instagram or a blogsite and then locate it on the eBay online store.

It will be interesting to see how this pans out for eBay and whether their customer's adoption of the features makes them worthwhile. For now, until the features are properly released in New Zealand, we can go off what we have seen previously from the likes of Pinterest with their 'lens' feature, as well as computer vision programs from Google, Amazon, IBM and Microsoft, which serve as a good predictor for the degree of accuracy that is expected from eBay’s new software.

We already knew that eBay was investing heavily in artificial intelligence (AI), as it snapped up Israeli computer-vision company Corrigon earlier this year and last year launched ShopBot, a Facebook Messenger shopping bot designed to help you find the best deals. But we’re now beginning to see the first real fruits of this ongoing investment inside the main eBay app. “Find it on eBay and Image Search are only the beginning,” a company spokesperson said. “As shoppers continue to search with pictures — instead of words — Find It On eBay and Image Search will get smarter, learn, and improve on the results that are surfaced.

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