Back in June, Pinterest's Engineering team released a research paper about their new visual search system which enables users to highlight any item within a Pin image and find similar products on the platform.
Within their research notes, there was a brief mention of a potential future development, which sounded interesting, but a long way off being a reality:
"We're also building technology that will help people get recommendations on Pinterest for products they discover in the real world, by simply taking a photo. For example, say you spot a coffee table you love either on Pinterest or at a friend's house, soon you'll be able to see how it would look in many different home settings."
That's taking Pinterest's image search to the next level, which is something that no one, not even the big tech players, have successfully been able to do just yet.
Surely Pinterest, with their much smaller development teams and resources couldn't do it first.
Well, they have - today, Pinterest has announced the next stage of their image search capacity.
As explained by Pinterest:
"Now along with being able to type in a search, people can also use anything they see - both on Pinterest and out in the world - as a jumping off point for discovering great products and ideas from businesses like yours."
Pretty impressive, huh?
It is worth noting that this new functionality - called Pinterest Lens - is only in beta, it's still being developed, and as such, it likely won't work on everything just yet. But still, it takes search and discovery to another level.
Now, the very presence of your products in someone's home, on the feet of a passer by, could serve as an immediate connection opportunity.
"Just point Lens at a pair of shoes, and tap to see related styles. Or try it on a table to find similar designs, and even other furniture from the same era. Lens also does food-point it at broccoli or a pomegranate to see what recipes come up."
In its current form, Pinterest notes that Lens works best when looking at home décor items, but the results will get better as more people use it and expand the range of objects Lens can recognize. You can even point it at the night sky and it'll return you related Pin matches.
You may have also noticed another new Pin discovery tool in the above video - see that small white circle that appears in the bottom right of each Pin image? That's Pinterest's new related "Related Ideas" tool - tap on it and Pinterest will show you visually similar Pins to give you more ideas around any specific theme.
In addition to this, Pinterest is also adding a new "Shop the Look" discovery tool which enables people to locate and buy products they see inside fashion and home décor Pins.
"Just tap the circle on each item to find the styles you're looking for. You can even see what other people have paired it with for more ideas on how to wear it."
Pinterest will be working with selected retailers on this new offering, which sounds similar to Instagram's soon to be rolled out Shopping Tags (though the relevant matches look o be from a range of retailers, not from specific brands).
These are some pretty impressive additions, and it's amazing to see such innovations coming from Pinterest, which, as noted, is challenging the social and search status quo despite its comparative size. Image recognition tools like this will be the next level for search - Snapchat's working in image-recognition triggered ads, so is Twitter, while both Facebook and Google continue to improve their image recognition tools and capacity.
Pretty soon, the ability to search images will be commonplace, which will have significant implications for marketers, while it'll also offer new opportunities in terms of increased data for context and ad targeting.
Pinterest getting in early will give them the opportunity to capitalize on these developments ahead of time and generate more interest in their offering. And with two billion searches already being conducted on the platform every month, the potential is huge.
It won't be long till we see search ads linked to real world objects.
Instant Ideas and Shop the Look are available now on iPhone, Android and the web. Lens will be rolling out in the US over the coming weeks.