'This' new app lets you shop for your home using smartphone camera

By  Shraddha Uchil | Mumbai | Posted  17-May-2017

A new app promises to help you shop for your home with just your smartphone camera 

How often have you looked at a beautiful piece of furniture or home décor item either on Pinterest or in a restaurant and gone, "I want this for my house"? More often than not, you don't know what brand it is, or even how to describe the product. Now, a new visual search app called [this.] hopes to simplify the process for you. 

The app, which had its soft launch last month, hopes to take the guesswork out of furniture shopping, using nothing but your smartphone's camera. To use it, you need to open the app, point the camera at the object you would like, and click a picture. Almost immediately, the app will pull up either the same product or similar ones from its inventory, which, as of now, includes around eight lakh products that are sourced from Indian sites like Flipkart and Pepperfry, and international ones such as Pottery Barn, as well as boutique sites.

Behind the scenes
International apps like Houzz and Like That Decor already offer this option, but this is the first time we're seeing an app of this kind in India.

E-commerce site Amazon offers a visual search option on its app, but it's only effective in identifying bar codes and directing you to a product only if it exists in its inventory.

"We bring the convenience of a camera to users. Here, instead of typing out what you're looking for in a search bar, you simply take a picture," says CEO and founder Amit Dalmia.

According to him, the home décor and furnishings market in India currently stands at an estimated R1,50,000 crore. He adds, "Because there are so many options and variants available, decorating a home has become that much more difficult. There are only so many words you can use to describe a mirror you like."

That's how, a year ago, the team behind [this.] came up with the idea of solving the problem of leveraging pictorial inspiration. The app uses an image recognition algorithm in tandem with machine learning to come up with useful suggestions.

Test drive
To try the app, we pick out a hot pink chair that we have been eyeing for a while on Pinterest. As instructed, we take a picture of it. While [this.] can't find us the same product, it does help by providing suggestions in a similar pattern, theme or colour from several Indian websites.

We like that it gives us a 'Make this for me' option, through which the team takes our requirement and budget into consideration and offers to custom make the product for us. This feature, however, is only applicable to furniture, not décor and utility items.
The algorithm doesn't always work seamlessly, though, like when we try looking for an orange cushion cover with a fox print. None of them match the item we're looking for and are, in fact, wildly different from one another. That said, the app works effectively more often than it fails.

And with 20,000 downloads in its kitty already -- it helps that the app is available for free download -- [this.] appears to be on its way to setting a trend for other e-commerce apps in India.

Available on Android and iOS

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