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Pinterest just made it easier for you to buy what you see on the site

JP Mangalindan
Chief Tech Correspondent

Pinterest is taking visual recognition to a whole new level for all you smartphone-toting shoppers.

The San Francisco-based service on Wednesday announced a new, experimental Lens feature for its iOS and Android smartphone apps that could change the way its users interact with their surroundings.

Take a photo of something you like — a mid-century style sofa at your friend’s home, a new pair of black Rag & Bone sneakers at Bloomingdale’s — and Lens will recognize around 1 billion items currently on the service to recommend a list of similar-looking items to look at, even possibly purchase.

Pinterest announced several new features at a company event in San Francisco, including an experimental visual recognition feature called Lens. Source: Pinterest

“We have so many images, and we have such a big data set, that patterns do start to emerge over time,” Pinterest Chief Creative Officer and co-founder Evan Sharp told Yahoo Finance. “The cool thing about the product [Lens] is that every time someone uses it — takes a photo of those shoes, and they tap on a shoe inside the app, like a Pin — we start to learn what the camera photo actually translates to into our catalog.”

The company also introduced two other, smaller features, including Shop The Look, where users can tap on blue circles on different areas of a Pin, and Pinterest will offer recommendations for similar items to buy on Pinterest or directly from a retailer.

For Pinterest, these latest features mark further efforts by the seven-year-old company to generate revenues. The startup, which has raised well over $700 million in venture-backed capital, carries an $11 billion valuation, and expected to make about $300 million in sales in 2016, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.

Over the last two years, Pinterest has introduced a slew of new features focused on attracting brands, including Buyable Pins, which lets users buy items from retailers such as Macy’s (M), Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom (JWN) right off Pinterest’s site or app, as well as paid video ads called Cinematic Pins from businesses including The Gap (GPS), L’Oreal, Target (TGT), Visa (V) and Wendy’s (WEN).

Features like Lens, introduced on Wednesday, are aimed squarely at increasing the chances that users will buy items from participating retailers.

JP Mangalindan is a senior correspondent covering the intersection of business and technology.

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