Ebay is adding visual search functionality

EBay will soon allow consumers to search for products with images.

As the visual search space heats up, eBay has thrown its hat into the ring with the launch of two new features, Image Search and Find It On eBay.

Enabled by artificial intelligence and machine learning, the features allow consumers to search with pictures instead of words. Both will be available in the fall.

In Image Search, developed during eBay Hack Week, consumers enter the photo of an item they want to purchase into the search bar. eBay said it will then surface listings that are a close match or visually similar and are available for purchase.

With Find It On eBay, shoppers can share images from any social platform or web browser and the eBay app will surface listings of the item in that image or others like it.

Ebay said artificial intelligence and machine learning are already embedded across the eBay experience, which makes its product catalog easily searchable. And, as consumers use eBay Image Search more, the platform will be able to surface richer results and filtering. In particular, eBay said two core parts of artificial intelligence -- computer vision and deep learning -- make it easier for consumers to buy the things that inspire them.

“When you upload images to run Find It On eBay and Image Search, we use a deep learning model called a convolutional neural network to process the images,” eBay said in a blog post. “The output of the model gives us a representation of…your image that we can use to compare to the images of the live listings on eBay. Then, we rank the items based on visual similarity and use our open-source Kubernetes platform to quickly bring these results to you, wherever you are in the world.”

These features sift through the more than 1.1bn listings on eBay. Ebay said they also open up new ways to discover items that wouldn’t be possible with just using words.

“Moments of shopping inspiration can come at any time, whether you’re walking down the street or browsing your social media feed,” said Mohan Patt, vice president of the buyer experience at eBay, in a statement. “We’re focused on creating new complementary technology that helps our millions of shoppers easily find the things they love at the best value.”

In addition, Patt said eBay can tap into the rich set of user-generated images and item data it has accumulated through the years.

“By applying machine learning technology, eBay can deliver a fast and reliable shopping experience backed by one of the world’s largest commerce data sets,” Patt added.

At the time of launch, Image Search will be on Android and iOS and Find It On eBay on Android.

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