Riya's Is First True Visual Image Search

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The LaunchPad 13 at Web 2.0 Summit

Silicon Valley startup Riya, currently a photo search company focusing on facial recognition, is making a significant strategic and product shift this morning. Riya will continue as is, but the company is leveraging the core technology to launch a new image search engine called (see our previous coverage of Riya here). is image search. There are lots of other image search engines on the web today. But all of them only take queries as text, and compare those text queries to the meta data attached to an image file. This data is notoriously thin, and companies like Google are resorting to using human labor to attempt to add descriptive keywords to images stored on their servers. Even specialty image search engines like Pixsy have fairly thin meta data for images. And all of the existing search engines allow only text for search queries.

The engine takes both text and images as queries, something no one else does. To return results based on an image query, compares a “visual signature” for the query image to possible results. The visual signature is simply a mathematical representatioin of the image using 10,000 variables. If enough variables are identical, decides the images are similar.

What this means – If you see an image on the web, like a watch that Paris Hilton is wearing in the picture to the left, and use it as an image query, will return results showing watches that look very similar.

If you enter a text query, like “brown boots pointed toe,” will convert that query into variables in the visual signature and look for related image results. See screen shot below for the results from this query.

The site launching today returns results only for shoes, jewelry, hand bags and clothing. The service will expand over time to include other categories, but these initial categories represent a very large portion of consumer discretionary spending in the real world. With each result will also present a link to purchase the item, and their hope is to generate revenue from subsequent purchases.

A key feature that will be launching in the next month or so is an image uploader and a toolbar. Upload an image to to see similar results. Or, simply use the toolbar to use any image found on the web as a search query. Either way, will return results for similar items.

Robert Scoble at Podtech interviewed Riya CEO Munjal Shah on video in preparation for the launch. See the interview here, and a product demo here.

On a side note, Munjal has written a series of fifteen blog posts talking about his experience as a startup CEO. This is a very useful resource for new entrepreneurs. And given the length of this series, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Munjal publish this as a book at some point as well.

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