Likevisualsearch.bmpLike has finally launched its visual search engine company, and it’s going to appeal to the shopping set, especially women.

Users select products from images, and then Like’s search engine will find comparable items to buy. Like is owned by Riya, which we have covered before, including here.

We find it compelling. There are other players in the market, but aren’t nearly as sophisticated as Like. For example, there is Pixsta, of London, which has built a shoe search at www.chezimelda.com with about $200,000. But it is elementary when compared to Like’s technology. Like is a classic Silicon Valley play, heavy on engineers, and stoked with about $19 million in venture capital from Bay Partners, Leapfrog and Bluerun. We’re still waiting for Google to release its competing visual search, which some say is better (see our story here).

Tyrabanks.bmpTake for example, the image here of Tyra Banks. You can select her boot by drawing a box over it with your mouse, and then check a box to have Like search for similar boots. You will get a page like the one below (see bottom). Further, you can ask Like to search for things with a similar pattern, color, and shape — using a slider for each of the variables. So if you’re looking for a handbag with buttons on it, you can emphasize pattern, and maybe color, but deemphasize shape — and have Like generate results. Here’s a tour of how it works. And here are more details of the launch.

It is not perfect. It can get confused by focusing on a color or image in the background of a picture, for example, instead of the object you’re focused on. But it’s better than what’s out there. If you search for “red strappy shoes,” Like will produce a page of results with — shocker — red strappy shoes. While this may be obvious, if you try this at Shopping.com, you’ll get only four shoes that are red and strappy. That’s because “pixel values” of an image rank highly in Like, whereas Shopping and most other search engines don’t factor this in.

For now, Like is focused on jewelry, handbags, shoes and watches. Soon, it will add clothing, and other things like fabrics and garden flowers. Everyone has their favorite shirt pattern that’s wearing out at the seams, and can relate to not being able to find another one just like it. Like will let you find a similar one easier. You just upload a photo, select it, and search.

It will also be releasing an upload toolbar, so that you can select anything you see online, hit the toolbar and have Like search for it. It will also launch a mobile SMS product.

Jewelry, shoes and clothing command $15 billion in online sales, and merchants spend about 10 percent of their revenue on customer acquisition — meaning there is about $3 billion floating around to pay Web sites and other sources for lead generation. If Like can just get one percent of that, or $30 million in revenue, chief executive Munjal Shah says he’ll have a nice company on his hands. (He’d better hurry, because Google’s product will probably take some wind out of his sails).

tyra result.bmp