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Bloomberg Customers Visual Shopping Search

Posted by: Rob Hof on November 8, 2006

Anyone who uses search engines to look for products knows the process can be an exercise in frustration. Whether it be Google or shopping comparison sites like, it’s often tough to find not only just the product you want—especially for more aesthetic items like apparel and jewelry.

That’s what, which launches this morning, aims to fix with what it calls a visual search engine for products, starting with jewelry, handbags, shoes, and watches. Find a photo of a red strappy shoe that you like (or type an initial search on “red strappy shoes”), for instance, and you’ll get an array of, well, red strappy shoes from a variety of retailers, such as and Zappos.

That’s just the start, though. Once you take a look at those products, you can highlight the part of the shoe you like, and the search engine will find other shoes with similar patterns, shapes, and colors. Then, you can further refine the search with sliders that let you rank the relative importance of pattern, shape, and color. was created by Riya, a company that initially focused on face recognition—which was pretty cool, actually—but couldn’t really come up with a business model for it. Munjal Shah, Riya’s CEO, told me the other day that the same technology works well to find similar-looking products.

Eventually, the company will add the ability to upload a photo of a product—like your favorite shirt that isn’t made anymore but you want to find something like it, or a photo taken with a camera phone at a store, to see if you can find the product cheaper online., which has raised $19.5 million from Bay Partners, BlueRun Ventures, Leapfrog Ventures, and others, plans to make money as an affiliate of these retail sites, meaning it gets paid about a 10% commission on a sale to a customer it sent to an online retailer. Right now, there are about 2 million unique products from 200 or so merchants.

Reader Comments


November 8, 2006 12:27 PM

This sounds like a cool site- I plan to check it out today. So far, it seems pretty unique compared to other shopping search sites. The best part about it is that they took an existing technology and made something new out of it. Thanks for the head's up!


November 10, 2006 4:15 AM

I like the hype going on as it proves we are just at the start of a long journey. After reading through a lot of these reviews and comments on the reviews, a site kept popping up - Chez CNN claims in a recent article is the largest shoe shopping site in the world, I read somewhere about 90,000 pairs of shoes being connected by visual clues. Click on a shoe and you are of into the search world of image browsing. I kept clicking on images, amazingly fast response and always fun to the next page. Amazing, how do they do this? I think it is using technologies made by PIXSTA. I could get to that site and what I saw there is pretty neat, especially if you are a shoe fiend like I am.

Paul Pruitt

November 12, 2006 9:47 AM

Check for an opensource desktop application with content based image search and its server side version: (may be interesting for those that want to integrate visual search into their website or application)


November 13, 2006 7:55 PM

I have been to Chez Imelda ( )and liked what I found. A very intuitive navigation in an image search environment for shoes. Considering the inventory, " the guys claim the largest shoe store on the web" I found it very easy to find within a couple of clicks the boots I was looking for. Different to like but very good as well


November 21, 2006 10:57 AM

Yahoo really ought to buy the company! They need an edge over Google and the already own flickr! So why not connect Like search to flickr? That would be really sweet!!!


January 29, 2007 12:32 PM

I just checked out Rob, unfortunately I found it too much clicking here and there. Where does this service score over traditional search engines? Please correct me if i am wrong here.

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