I'm at the Shop.org Annual in NYC this week. This morning I spoke on online customer acquisition. The rest of the time I sat in on the "Web 2.0" track. The most interesting thing I've seen at the show so far was a "sneak peak" demo by Riya's CEO Munjal Shah. Riya is a visual search engine, known for indentifying people in photos by their faces. Munjal demonstrated a "show me more like this" pre-beta app using the Riya technology. He said it was "the first time this has been shown outside the company" and asked the retailers in the audience to provide feedback on how they should turn in into a product. In the demo, he clicked on some products -- a watch, some women's high heeled shoes with a funky strap, and a leather pocketbook -- and the system pulled up similar looking products. He refined his search to along the lines of "I'm looking for more products that look like this in color" and "I'm looking for more products that look like this in shape." Munjal apologized that the demo was slow because it was running on test servers and on rollout would run "in well under a second". To me, the demo seemed very fast. Really novel innovations in online retail are rare. Visual product search is one of them. If you sell an products where appearance and aesthetics matter -- clothes, shoes, art, etc -- I'd keep an eye on Riya. Very cool stuff. Disclaimer: the following predictions are hunches, not based on any insider information. Prediction 1: When this technology gets released, Land's End will be among the early adopters. Prediction 2: Riya is bought within twelve months, likely by Google.
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