When it comes to fashion your iPhone may make Christmas shopping a little easier as new breeds of intelligent app bring us something similar to Shazam for clothes.
What they want
FindSimilar lets you grab a photo of an item of clothing you like (in a shop window or worn by someone in the street) and puts together a list of similar items of clothing for you. Not only this, but it tells you how much they cost, where you can get them and helps you buy them online.
UK firm Cortexica has developed this "parallel probabilistic computation technology" to figure things out from images. The recently updated StyleThief, ShopStyle and Rent the Runway apps all use the technology. (It's similar to this).
"A quick snap of a shop window mannequin, a magazine picture of an item of clothing, someone in the street or a catwalk model is all that is needed to look for similar items which are then presented for potential in-app purchase," Cortexica explains.
The search solution works by mimicking calculations made by the human brain when processing images in order to establish visual key points of interest.
[ABOVE: A little Kate Middleton snap should help you find similar clothes, if that's your thing.]
You can also use FindSimilar to find clothing that matches colors, shades -- even the pattern on your coat. It analyzes what it sees in order to generate a list of suitable garments.
Iain McCready, CEO of Cortexica, explains:
“Most shoppers will have experienced that deep feeling of frustration after hunting endlessly and aimlessly for an item of clothing that they’ve seen or admired. They’ve also had the experience of seeing an expensive item and wondering whether they might be able to find something similar and far more affordable. Our software is the answer to these perennial problems.”
You could understand the tool as little more than a gimmick for fashion sales, but you'd be wrong. The tech also powers a mobile app that lets you take a picture of the back of a car in order to receive a list of similar vehicles for sale on eBay Motors, Cortexica claims.
There is a wider context to this story because it suggests new possibilities for online services such as The Fancy or Pinterest. There's also potential implications on the future of search engines, as search behavior becomes image conscious.
I can also imagine this technology attracting some interest from Apple, Google or Microsoft, as the OS vendors seek unique selling points for their mobile platforms: the idea that all you need to do is point your smartphone at an object in order to identify it and quickly find where you can get hold of it is likely to be enticing to many users.
Where we are right now, these tools should simply help make it a little easier to shop for clothes your significant others may actually want to find under the Christmas Tree, by helping you make fashion choices based on what they already like to wear. All you should need is a quietly stolen picture of them in one of their favorite things (and a credit card, of course).
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