Pinterest’s Lens app turns your phone’s camera into a search bar

Pinterest's version of Google's Goggles will roll out to iPhone and Android users in the US sometime soon.

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Pinterest is bringing search to the real world.

On Wednesday, the social-network-slash-search-engine introduced Lens, a mobile app that uses the phone’s camera to recognize physical objects and pull up related items from Pinterest. The app appears to be Pinterest’s version of Google’s neglected Goggles app. Google’s app is no longer available in Apple’s App Store; it is still available on Android but hasn’t been updated since May 2014. Bing also has the feature built into its app, added last year.

Based on some GIFs provided by Pinterest, Lens focuses on objects appearing within a circular window — likely to reduce the signal-to-noise ratio — and then presents tags that it associates with the object(s) as well as relevant pins from its platform. Pinterest had teased the product in June 2016 when it announced enhancements to its visual search tool.


Pinterest’s Lens app is still in testing but will be available to iPhone and Android owners in the US sometime soon. While Pinterest claims the company’s technology is able to recognize more than 1 billion objects, for now, Lens “works best for finding home decor ideas, things to wear and food to eat,” according to a company blog post.

As Lens extends Pinterest’s search chops to the real world, the company is also extending search beyond the query bar on its own platform.

Pinterest’s new Shop the Look feature turns items appearing in pins into products people can buy. Relevant products will be highlighted with a blue circle that people can tap to see related products that are available for purchase, either on Pinterest or through a brand’s own site. CB2, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Target and Wayfair are among the first brands to market their wares this way on Pinterest; Pinterest is sourcing their products through Curalate, Olapic, Project September, Refinery29 and ShopStyle. Pinterest’s Shop the Look feature is similar to a test Instagram began last year.


Another new feature called Instant Ideas will append a white circle to pins in people’s home feeds that, when tapped, will insert related pins into the feed.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Tim Peterson
Tim Peterson, Third Door Media's Social Media Reporter, has been covering the digital marketing industry since 2011. He has reported for Advertising Age, Adweek and Direct Marketing News. A born-and-raised Angeleno who graduated from New York University, he currently lives in Los Angeles. He has broken stories on Snapchat's ad plans, Hulu founding CEO Jason Kilar's attempt to take on YouTube and the assemblage of Amazon's ad-tech stack; analyzed YouTube's programming strategy, Facebook's ad-tech ambitions and ad blocking's rise; and documented digital video's biggest annual event VidCon, BuzzFeed's branded video production process and Snapchat Discover's ad load six months after launch. He has also developed tools to monitor brands' early adoption of live-streaming apps, compare Yahoo's and Google's search designs and examine the NFL's YouTube and Facebook video strategies.

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