Picture this – the web as a truly visual medium

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An new e-commerce tool allows users to search an online catalogue by submitting a photo of the item they are looking for.

The European internet infrastructure provider, LookThatUp, has introduced it as part of a range of image-recognition products for the UK market.

Another application is an image-monitoring tool that website administrators use to screen offensive images, including pornography.

The technology breaks down images to identify unique visual attributes, including colour, texture, shape, and spatial configuration. The software then gives each image a ‘visual signature’ that can be compared to thousands of others, using highly ‘intelligent’ technology that grows smarter with each image processed.

The Internet software can work with any image in a digital format, including pictures from the web, scanned photos, or images shot with a still or video digital camera.

The three new LookThatUp products are:
• Image-Shopper, which allows users to find what they are looking for by uploading a photo of the item they want.
• Image-Filter, which analyses images as they are uploaded and can automatically block objectionable images, while allowing ‘clean’ images through.
• Image-Seeker, which can easily retrieve a picture from within large image banks.

LookThatUp’s image-recognition technology is the result of more than 40 accumulated years of research. The company was co-founded by CEO Chahab Nastar, a onetime fellow at the MIT Media Lab and later head of the Image and Multimedia Indexing group at the National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control in France. Jean-Marie Hullot, co-founder of RealNames and former chief technology officer at NeXT, a Steve Jobs company, joined LookThatUp.com last year as the company’s chairman.

“The Internet has become the biggest picture library in the world. Until now, its infrastructure for content-monitoring, search and navigation has faced language barriers and has been limited to text,” said Nastar. “LookThatUp makes the web a truly visual medium.”



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