Pinterest Invests in Image Recognition with New Acquisition

After Facebook bought and Yahoo’s purchase of LookFlow, Pinterest has snapped up VisualGraph, a start-up that develops image recognition, machine vision and visual search technologies. This latest acquisition by the pinboard-style photo-sharing website is an indication of the increasing demand for visual search solutions for better discovery and ad-targeting.

VisualGraph is owned by Kevin Jing and David Lui; Jing was part of Google’s team that developed the search engine giant’s first image search applications back in 2004. Lui, a Stanford graduate, has interned at Facebook, Palantir and Google. At VisualGraph, the two were involved in building a large-scale visual search engine.

Pinterest may use VisualGraph’s expertise to better understand the visual content of people’s pins and improve suggestions. It doesn’t currently have a system for tagging photos. By recognizing the shapes, sizes and colors, the site could make it easier for users to find what they are looking for. Image recognition can also help Pinterest tailor ads more effectively to users based on what they are pinning and viewing. Pinterest’s current monetization strategy is focused on ads. Search ability can create room for relevant ads that attract people who have already been identified as having a purchasing intent.

The latest acquisition is a step towards leveraging the benefits of image recognition to give user experience and revenue a boost. The company is under pressure to generate revenue after raising $225 million in investment money that values it at $3.8 billion.

Under Yahoo, LookFlow is improving the discoverability of photo-sharing site Flickr and expected to help the company build a new learning group. Facebook’s intention with its 2012 purchase of was to make identification of the names of people in photos uploaded by users quicker. It is to be seen how well Pinterest uses VisualGraph’s capability for the huge amounts of visual data on its site.

Photo by Michael Deal / CC BY 3.0