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ASOS is the latest online company to embrace computer vision as it begins rolling out a new visual search tool to help fashionistas find garments and accessories using nothing but their smartphone camera.

For the uninitiated, ASOS is a U.K.-based ecommerce giant that sells everything from shoes, shirts, and bags to jewellery, accessories, and everything in between. Hitherto, users could search manually by category or using keywords, but with the latest update to land on iOS it’s now possible to take a photo of an item of clothing in the real world — or capture a screenshot from the web or upload an existing snap from your camera roll — and search for similar items on ASOS.

Users will now see a little camera icon in the search bar, which they can tap to set the visual wheels in motion.

Above: Asos: Image search

Above: Asos: Image search (shoes)

Above: Asos: Image search (results)

Visual search

ASOS noted that 80 percent of its U.K. traffic comes from mobile devices, with shoppers spending on average 80 minutes per month in the mobile app. This is why the company is seeking new ways to help people unearth goods more easily. “We know this (mobile devices) is where our customers are and it’s how they interact with us everyday, so we are always looking for ways that are mobile native to make their experience even better,” said Asos’ digital product director, Andy Berks.


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Computer vision has emerged as a key focus for online companies around the world. Just a few weeks back, eBay announced a couple of upcoming image-search features that help you find items using photos. These arrived a few months after Pinterest launched a new feature called Lens that allows users to snap a photo with their mobile camera to find related themes and pins, or recipes based on food they encounter in real life.

Visual search isn’t new in the fashion realm, either. A.I. chatbot company recently launched a Facebook Messenger bot that lets you submit a photo of a piece of clothing to find similar items, places where you can buy it, and information about who has worn something like it (e.g. celebrities).

ASOS claims 15 million active customers globally, a third of whom live in the U.K., with the rest spread across the U.S., France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Australia, and Russia. Just this week, the company revealed it was investing $40 million in a second distribution center in the U.S., a market it sees as having major potential for growth, though at present the U.S. represents just a little more than 10 percent of the company’s $1.8 billion global revenues (as of its last fiscal year).

Suffice it to say, the U.S. will be a major focal point for ASOS moving forward, and although the company’s latest image search feature is limited to iOS in the U.K. for now, a spokesperson confirmed to VentureBeat that it will be landing in other markets in the coming months. An Android incarnation will be arriving at a later date.

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