A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Using eBay ShopBot’s visual search to shop, browse and discover great finds on eBay

When we launched eBay ShopBot beta back in October of this year, we set the foundation for the future of commerce, based on important advancements we are making in the fields of artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language understanding, and computer vision / image recognition. The latter takes the form of a camera icon in the Messenger keyboard, when you are chatting with eBay ShopBot. Robinson Piramuthu is leading our efforts in computer vision, and he explains in a new medium post how it works and how image recognition on eBay ShopBot is shaping of the future of shopping, browsing, and discovery today.

Just tap the camera icon above the keyboard, and eBay ShopBot opens its eyes.

Point the camera at an item you would love to find on eBay, and snap a photo.

Then hit Send. eBay ShopBot will use its powerful computer vision engine to identify visually similar items across eBay’s 1 billion listings, returning matches for you almost instantly. This would be extremely difficult to accomplish by hand, or by any other means, quite frankly.

Our goal is to make shopping easy and powerful for our customers. See something you like when you’re walking down the street? Just snap a picture with your phone, and eBay ShopBot will search eBay to find the item and others like it.

Cracking the code on image recognition for a better shopping experience is no easy feat. In his new post, Robinson describes the compelling research and development that he and the team are leading that take visual search from finding specific matches to an entirely new source of inspiration and discovery. For example, using image search, you can shop for something with a specific style, even if you don’t know what it’s called. If you see something you find visually interesting, you can use that as inspiration to find all kinds of items that are aesthetically similar. Let eBay ShopBot be your muse, leading you in unexpected directions as you shop.

Check out Robinson’s insightful post for a behind the scenes look into this compelling new frontier. You’ll learn more about the interesting challenges in the field and how we are tackling them, like teaching eBay ShopBot how to recognize photos that shoppers take of their computer screens and web browsers.

I’m so proud of the work the team is doing, and thrilled to see the community of shoppers, beta testers, and tinkerers who are using eBay ShopBot beta and helping us make it better every day. If you haven’t met our personal shopping assistant, give it a try today. More to come!