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eBay will let you shop using photos from your phone

Two new tools called Image Search and Find It On eBay are on the way.


Using Image Search, you can snap and crop an image, then find it on eBay.


Soon, eBay will let you shop on its app by snapping pictures.

The e-commerce company on Wednesday said it's developing two new image recognition tools for its mobile app. They'll only be available in the US and are set for release this fall, with a desktop version arriving later.

The first feature, simply called Image Search, will let you take a photo of a pair of sneakers or a handbag (or an existing photo in your phone's library) and use it to search eBay to find similar listings. The other, called Find It On eBay, lets you tap images on any online site and "share" to eBay to get a list of similar-looking items.

"We want to make the entire internet shoppable by the image," Mohan Patt, eBay vice president of buyer experience, said.

How do Image Search and Find It On eBay work? By using machine learning and artificial intelligence to mine eBay's 1.1 billion live listings, as well as its troves of past sales.

The new features might be used on the street or in a store when an item of clothing or piece of furniture catches your eye and you want to see if something like it is available on eBay, hopefully for less. The features also show eBay is now one step closer to a concept offered by CEO Devin Wenig earlier this year, in which people can take pictures of stuff they want to sell and eBay automatically fills titles, descriptions, listing information and even prices.

The new tools could also help eBay catch up to Amazon, which has been offering image-recognition tech in its mobile app for several years. eBay last year bought up three AI-focused companies in hopes of rolling out features like these, so customers should expect more in the future.

Demoing the new features, Patt used a picture he snapped in a magazine of knee-high black boots, fed it to eBay and immediately retrieved more than 500 live listings of the same kind of boots. The intent wasn't to get the identical item, but provide a range of similar looks and prices for customers, he added.

eBay said it will store images shared with the company and corresponding search results to evaluate the relevance of the results and provide users with their past searches.

The tools will be available across categories on eBay, but the company will develop its AI models most on soft goods like clothes and furniture that often don't include a bar code. (You can already search by bar code using eBay, Amazon and Walmart's apps.)

When the new tools launch, Image Search will be available on both Android and iOS and Find It On eBay on Android, but an iOS version is expected later. 

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