You can now search eBay using images

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gretsch guitar ebay
Find that sweet vintage guitar on eBay just by snapping a photo.
Photo: Freebird/Flickr CC

It just got a whole lot easier to find odd items on eBay. Now, instead of typing in your search criteria, you can just snap a photo of an object, and eBay will search across the site and return any results that look like your photo.

This is great for those times that you have no idea how to describe something, but you totally have to buy it. Or when you see something in an image and don’t know how search for it on Amazon. Or when you see a super-cool vintage blouse/jacket/bag and want to find something similar.

Using the new feature is easy. It’s built into eBay’s Find It On eBay and Image Search apps. You can get an image into the app with a camera, but you can also share images found on the internet — share buttons will get pictures out of Facebook for Twitter and into the eBay apps, for example.

Search eBay with AI

eBay uses “computer vision and deep learning” to do the magic, similar in result to the machine learning done by Apple’s Photos app to help you search your photos by contents — dog, guitar, gravestone, etc. — as well as by date or location.

The eBay version processes all its images into a form that can be compared to other images to see how similar they are. It then returns results of any items that match — or nearly match — your source image.

search ebay for those cool shoes you saw.
Search eBay for those cool shoes you saw.
Photo: eBay

eBay image search

It’s powerful stuff, and if it turns out to work well, it’s a much better way to search than by having to come up with keywords.

Even if you’re looking for a very specific item, the person selling it may not be as meticulous as you are when it comes to describing their wares. And, says eBay, the results will only get better as more and more people use the service.

The only downside may be that items will no longer languish due to miscategorization, or typos, and that you won’t be able to use your superior searching skills to winkle out these unseen listings and snap them up cheap.