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Snap Fashion allows punters to photograph an item – then search for similar ones

by on October 3, 2012 in Apps, featured item, Lead story, Retail News, Small Business, Social Media, South West, Startups

By Anna Leach The Register..  A computer science graduate who used her final-year coursework on image processing to establish a startup has netted a £60k prize.

Jenny Griffiths, who studied at Bristol University, became interested in computer vision during the second year of her master’s degree – and in her fourth year she wrote software to recognise soft objects, such as clothes, and catalogue them.

Her image search system is now the core technology in her small fashion business that won Cisco’s BIG startup award and prize money in September.  Here’s a video of the programme in action

Identifying fabrics and such things has been somewhat overlooked in the field of computer vision, which in terms of big commercial products has mainly focussed on medical and military applications. Griffiths instead angled her startup at the lucrative world of women’s fashion.

Her resulting app – Snap Fashion – allows punters to photograph an item, or upload a picture of some apparel, and then search for similar ones across different retailers. This lets shoppers not only discover where a particular thing is sold, but also find the cheapest outlet and select variants of the things they more or less want. There’s a link to buy the product, and Snap Fashion skims an affiliate link cut. The purchase can be done through the app or a common-or-garden web browser.

The software is geared at women’s fashion, but there’s an app for for men’s stuff coming next. And potentially one for matching plumbing parts and such like after that. Here’s a video of the program in action:

“It’s an idea we’ve all had, but I’ve backed it up with fairly complex algorithms that I invented in 2009 when I was at university,” Griffiths said. “I tried to make a specific search engine that was particularly good at recognising colour and texture as well as on shape.

“I liked that with computer vision you could write some lines of code and get something back, instead of just a number. I guess I’m a visual person. I originally wanted to go into animation.”

Obviously there are rival websites: Griffiths analysed eBay’s search services and Google Product search, and researched competitors such as Tineye.com by reading the academic papers of its founders. Like Google image search, Tineye reveals where a submitted picture can also be found on the web.

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