Song recognition app Shazam wants to recognize more than just audio. A report from Reuters says the app is planning on expanding its search function to the visual realm too, letting users identify items such as DVDs and groceries with their phone's camera.
"We want to expand the universe of what you can Shazam," chief executive Rich Riley told the news agency. "The famous blue button that our users love will remain on the home screen but will be able to do much more."
Will Shazam's visual search use barcodes or image recognition?
How exactly Shazam's visual search will work is unclear. The report from Reuters says the app will be able to look up information on "actual objects, such as a cereal packet in the grocery store to get more nutritional information or a DVD case at home to buy the movie soundtrack." However, this could be achieved via barcode scanning — or by using the more difficult method of image recognition.
Both processes have already been used by technology companies to create search functions for what we see in real life. Amazon's Fire Phone bundles in a feature called Firefly, which uses image recognition to identify consumer goods and gives users the option to buy what they'd scanned. The company's shopping app also has barcode scanner. Google's forgotten Goggles app (last updated in May 2014) scanned barcodes as well, but also recognized landmarks and works of art, as well as processing text and numbers.
Plenty of apps already claim to be the "shazam of shopping"
And when it comes to retail, plenty of apps claim to be the "Shazam of Shopping" — including Asap54, a British competitor that uses a combination of image recognition and crowdsourced fashion knowledge to identify items such as coats and shoes, then pointing users to online stores where they can buy them.
It's this last step in the process that will undoubtedly be attracting Shazam's interest. The company has already secured deals with major streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer to give users the option to buy a song after searching for it. Adding a similar functionality for groceries, clothes, DVDs, and games could be lucrative. As would deals with advertisers who could precisely target Shazam's 100 million monthly active users based on their previous searches.
"Our business model is real and developed, not to be determined like so many web apps or start-ups," Riley told Reuters. His confidence is reflected in the British company's most recent funding round — raising $30 million in January for a valuation of around $1 billion. With money like that, it's definitely time to go shopping.