Pinterest brings full dish recognition to its Lens camera search

In a move that may seem like an early step toward hitting a ridiculously high valuation, Pinterest is now adding to its Lens camera search the ability to recognize complete dishes.

Next time you’re out at a restaurant and you find something that you thought was delicious at the first bite, Pinterest is now going to give you a way to take a quick photo of that dish through its Lens feature and find recipes related to it. Then you can save those recipes and start experimenting at home, along with adding a few other features the company is releasing with this. For anyone who eats out and likes cooking, it sounds like this is going to be a really great feature that taps into Pinterest’s visual search technology that it’s tried to flex going forward.

Pinterest also is introducing more filters to its recipe searches. That includes the ability to fine-tune little parts of the cooking experience like the amount of time it takes to prepare a dish, find dishes that are vegetarian or vegan or those that contain specific ingredients you might find interesting. So if you’re opening up your fridge and you see a ton of stuff just sitting there, you might be able to filter through to the recipe you want through Pinterest’s search.

Pinterest already offered users the ability to point their camera at an ingredient — like strawberries — and offer some recipe recommendations. But as users have added more and more recipes, and more and more images of those recipes flood into Pinterest, the company has a wider opportunity to train its models and figure out how to best match up dishes to ones that are similar enough that it can guess the right recipe.

All this — along with the launch of Lens, which gave users the ability to search through Pinterest’s huge database of products with just their camera — moves the company closer to collapsing the distance between the real world and experience that Pinterest wants to impart. With cooking being one of Pinterest’s sweet spots, full dish detection was one of the obvious applications of its visual search technology that was likely waiting in the oven.

That’s good news for advertisers, too. At TechCrunch Disrupt NY earlier this month, Pinterest president Tim Kendall said the company would be releasing advertising products that will allow brands to match up ads based on image similarities powered by its visual search tools. That means that if a user is taking a photo of a dish at a restaurant that looks like one that contains a specific ingredient sold by a brand, an advertiser has an opportunity to catch them in that planning process when they save that recipe. Then, Pinterest is able to help that advertiser follow that user all the way to the buying process.

Food, like clothing, lends itself to one of the most rich and engaging kinds of photos and content for a company like Pinterest. And as its visual search improves — to the point that it can identify these kinds of objects in a lower-resolution camera — and the actual related results get better, Pinterest is able to continue to show it can offer a unique experience compared to other platforms. If it’s able to do that, it can go to advertisers and pitch its 175 million monthly active users as visitors with a unique kind of behavior that they wouldn’t find on other platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and eventually use that to propel itself into a big business.