📰 A Minor Revolution in how We Search - The Pinterest Lens Idea

Even with the internet of things wave starting to peak, one of the current digital frontiers is the ability to link the online world with the one we experience through our senses every day.

Pinterest’s model is all about showing, not telling. Whether your interest is in food, architecture or fashion, you can find hundreds of thought-provoking photos on your chosen subject with the click of a button. However, there’s still a slight mental disconnect in searching for something visual using words – until now.

Though still in beta testing, a new function in the Pinterest app allows you to point your camera at some interesting object to search for related topics. See a vegetable you don’t recognize? Just point, shoot, search and you’ll find all the information you need, along with recipes and even where to buy it – although this currently works best for furniture and apparel using pins.

For an idea on how this experience goes, check out Instant Ideas on pinterest.com. Each topic has a clickable white circle at the bottom right; activating this will instantly show you related ideas. If you tap on an elegant antique chair, for instance, this might bring up more furniture from the same period, decorating ideas or woodworking projects. While this might not lead you directly to the exact information you want, as with a text-based search, it’s wonderful for brainstorming and can lead you into directions you would have never explored on your own. Additionally, your choices add to the user profile Pinterest’s software compiles on your preferences. If you’re mad about Italian food but rarely click on photos relating to barbecue, you’ll be seeing more pasta and less steak in your feed in future.

At times, we all feel stuck when deciding what to do. Although it still works best with fashion, interior decorating and food, Pinterests new Lens function can help you explore your options quickly and extensively. This may inspire you to “go out and do that thing” as the CEO of Pinterest once put it.

One of the features of Lens is that it will become more accurate and useful the more it is used, very much taking advantage of the cumulative analytics that are so much a part of social media. It’s also going to change online shopping as buyable pins become more common as a marketing tool. Instead of classifying related products based on which are bought by the same customers, shoppers can go directly to a selection that “looks like” something they’ve seen in a display or even on the street. Also, Lens’s suggestions aren’t limited only to items that offer a direct visual correlation. If you search for a certain style of dress, for instance, it will also suggest matching shoes. Marketers had better take note and get on this wave before the competition does!

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and half a dozen others all offer slightly different services to their users. Most people active on social media use more than one, but Facebook remains the one to beat in terms of marketing power, functionality and user base. The digital landscape is capable of transforming itself in the blink of an eye, and the introduction of innovative features such as Lens might be leading us to a whole new social paradigm.

Lens functionality is available for iOS as well as Android. Remember that it’s still in Beta, so don’t expect perfection just yet.

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