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Amazon uses visual search for shoe shopping

Amazon is adding some of the algorithms subsidiary A9 has been working on in its own shopping tools. Now, when customers search for shoes, they can find what they're looking for based on pictures.

Amazon's new shoe shape feature.
Amazon's new shoe shape feature. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Amazon has added a visual search component to its shoe shopping service.

Starting today, customers can now browse all the shoes available on Amazon by the design of the shoe. The online retail giant hopes that the new feature will help customers find the "styles they want easily and quickly."

Overall, the premise is quite simple. When a person chooses either men's or women's shoes, they will be presented with several different shoe categories. Upon picking the appropriate category, they will find a new filtering option called "shoe shape" that features silhouettes of different shoe types. By clicking one of those options, they will see only those shoes that closely match that silhouette.

According to Amazon, the filtering option is based on its own visual search technology. It also uses algorithms from A9, a search subsidiary of Amazon.

I took the feature for a spin this morning and was somewhat pleased by its performance. Whenever I chose a silhouette for men's shoes, it returned the best results. Plus, it was quite fast, which made it all the better.

However, when searching for women's shoes, I found the feature to be lacking at times. In some cases, I chose a specific shoe type that hardly resembled what I was looking at in the results. It didn't happen every time, but it happened enough for me to realize that some work still needs to be done to make the feature more accurate.