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‘Find similar’ software that mimics the brain to make UK ecommerce debut this autumn

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New visual search software designed to mimic the way the brain processes information in order to help shoppers find similar products is set to make its ecommerce debut this autumn.

Shoppers using Cortexica’s ‘find similar’ software will be able to use their mobile device to take a picture of an item, such as a dress or shirt, to which they want to find similar alternatives and submit it for analysis. The software then returns a series of images of available items, based on characteristics such as colour, shape and design.

A number of UK fashion retailers are currently understood to be testing the software from the developer, which based in the incubator lab at Imperial College, London. ‘Find similar’ is now set to be integrated into websites and mobile phone-based apps before a full launch in the autumn.

Cortexica says it expects its solution to transform online search, allowing shoppers to find similar, rather than identical, clothes to those they’ve admired on a friend or colleague. It will also help those looking to adapt to the latest catwalk trends. Rather than waiting for a trend to trickle down to the high street, says Cortexica, consumers will be able to photograph a catwalk model to find a similar item that’s already available. Shoppers will also be able to find results using visual clues such as wallpaper or colour swatches.

“Most shoppers will have experienced that deep feeling of frustration after hunting endlessly and aimlessly for an item of clothing that they’ve seen or admired,” said Iain McCready, chief executive of Cortexica. “They’ve also had the experience of seeing an expensive item and wondering whether they might be able to find something similar and far more affordable. Our software is the answer to these perennial problems.”

The software develops an existing Cortexica solution which finds identical items. That is currently in use on, for example, eBay Motors, where an app powered by Cortexica software enables users to take a picture of the back of a car. The image is analysed instantly to bring up a list of cars available for sale via eBay for the user to browse.

The Find Similar software has been developed by Cortexica’s team of neuroscientists, visual scientists and machine learning engineers to replicate the way that eyes and neurons interact when they recognise and interpret an image.

It uses a technology called parallel probabilistic computation to mimic calculations made by neurons in the primary visual cortex of the human brain. The software, which learns over time, finds visual key points of interest tied to patterns. As well as working with images, it also works with videos.

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