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Visual Search: Devices That Can See the World and Respond


Imagine pointing your smartphone camera at a picture in a newspaper and suddenly having that static photo turn into a moving, talking video. The video unfolds much like a television news report. Your phone, in a split second, has understood and searched archives based on the photo in its view finder. It has transformed a simple photo into a source of entertaining, engaging media. This is a simple example of a developing technology called image recognition.

Now, imagine walking through the subway station and seeing a movie poster for a film you have been looking forward to seeing. By holding your camera toward the poster an image recognition app would be able to instantly display showtimes near you, a movie trailer and critic reviews. You can even share this information onto your social media with just a tap.

Image recognition became popular in the late 1990s and has been expanding through computer software, search engines and phone apps rapidly. Another name for this exciting technology is machine vision. It is the process by which a computer or other type of machine recognizes and understands images. Through it’s understanding, the device is able to display interacting media or data that falls in line with the thing in its view.

There are even programs being developed to assist the visually challenged through recognition technology. Apps have been undergoing testing that would allow a photo to be deeply understood by a machine, and then for it’s details to be relayed via audio to the blind individual. People, food and environments will be able to be described so that the person on the receiving end can have an experience unlike never before.

One company specifically is setting the industry ablaze. Slyce ( is dynamic visual search technology which will pave the way for shoppers world wide. The Slyce system allows users to take a photo of virtually anything and find matches to products which they can purchase. For example, a person decorating their home could take a photo of a ornate bookcase that they happen to see in a friend’s home. Slyce technology will detect exact and near matches and show the shopper where they can buy online! This puts a virtual catalog at buyer’s fingertips.

As we progress into the next decade, image recognition is sure to become an in integral in smartphones, wearable technology, social media, gaming and in many businesses. As one would expect, mega companies like Facebook and Google are putting vast resources into developing image recognition technology. Google is even building an open source database that will assist developers in their quests to expand in this realm of machine learning. Companies seeking long term success and who strive to appeal to a technology savvy generation will certainly need to climb on board this trend.