Pinterest shifts focus to visual search with updates to Lens feature

Pinterest shifts focus to visual search with updates to Lens feature

Pinterest rolled out its visual search tool Lens to all users in March, and now the platform has streamlined the tool with a redesign and the addition of some new features.

Lens lets users point their camera at their surroundings to discover fresh ideas based on the images it captures. The idea being that if a user spots something they are interested in – like a dress or a flower arrangement – then they can snap a picture of it and search for visually similar images within Pinterest's walls.

Uses are even able to take pictures of food and surface Pins containing recipes and ingredients, and the latest update will help the visual bookmarking tool further build out these capabilities.

A new feature brings us one step closer to living in a world where the virtual closet from classic 90s movie Clueless – which helps the main character select her daily outfits – is a reality. Over the last month Pinterest says it has more than doubled the number of object categories Lens has been trained to recognise. In this arena the company's focus will very much be on fashion, after finding that the majority of users want ideas around how to wear items they already own. As such Lens is now better at recommending outfits ideas for specific styles of shoes, dresses, hats and more.

As well as a differentiator, this change could turn out to be a moneymaker for Pinterest, which has been steadily building out its advertising and e-commerce business ahead of a rumoured and potentially distant IPO.

Google currently dominates the search advertising arena, but as Pinterest pushes further into it there is plenty of opportunity for it to serve more relevant ads to users against specific search results. Pinterest’s head of product, search ads Umesh Unnikrishnan recently touched on this himself when the firm first rolled out ads in Lens search results.

The move also brings with it the chance for Pinterest to ink brand tie ups across the categories Lens is able to recongise. When the site introduced the Lens recipe search feature last month it teamed up with Epicurious, Martha Stewart, and Food Network for recipe ratings, meaning there could be room to do the same around categories like fashion and homeware.

Several new design and camera features have also been added to the tool, including the ability to zoom in and out on particular objects and tap to focus. A 'shoot now search later' function has been added to let Pinners search for exisitng images from their photo gallery.

Pinterest recently raised $150m in funding, and is now valued at $12bn.

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