It seems like no one wants to be left behind on image searches. In recent weeks, Target has both partnered with Pinterest to add their ‘Lens’ feature to Target’s app, letting customers look for items similar to what they want using pictures, and introduced its new AR tool that allows potential furniture buyers to take a picture of any room in their house and see how a certain piece of furniture fits it. Now, eBay has launched pretty much the same feature as Target and Instagram’s ‘Lens’, with an added feature that is pretty neat. Whenever a shopper goes on line and sees something they like, all they have to do is click “Find it on eBay” and the app will automatically look through its billions of listings to try and find the same item, or will offer items that are as close in similarity with the picture as possible.

It seems that retailers are catching on to the fact that potential customers can be frustrated by word searches; indeed, and I’ve been there myself, it can be difficult and awkward to accurately describe, say, the exact shape of a flower vase or to find any specific object without knowing its brand. When my wife saw the perfect red shoes being worn by a stranger at the mall, she came home to look for them on the great wide web…I can’t begin to tell you how many images Google spit out at her ‘red high heels’ search terms. She never did find the ones she oh so liked, and image search would have been a great help to her at the time – assuming she could have taken a discreet picture of the lucky lady’s pumps.

The feature’s deep learning model (which is called a convolutional neural network, for those who are interested) gets smarter the more image searches it goes through, which means that it gradually gets better at producing results that are close to the original image (assuming that it doesn’t have just the thing you’re looking for, that is).

‘Find it on eBay’ is now live only on eBay’s Android app, but the ‘Image Search’ feature can be used both on Android and iOS devices.

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