Pinterest now uses AI to figure out what you're eating in photos

JP Mangalindan
Senior Correspondent

Pinterest has found perhaps the most delectable use of artificial intelligence and image recognition yet: to serve up recipes based on photos of meals you’re eating.

The eight-year-old San Francisco, Calif.-based startup rolled out an update on Tuesday that enables its AI-powered feature, Pinterest Lens, to detect and analyze what you’re eating in any given photo. Lens then suggests a recipe “inspired” by the food, meal or dish.

Say you snap a photo of jambalaya you’re chowing down on. Lens figures out you’re eating jambalaya, then recommends a jambalaya recipe for you to try. This is different from how many other companies are applying computer vision technology, a Pinterest spokesperson pointed out.

Source: Pinterest

Facebook (FB) already uses image recognition to identify friends in photos and suggests tagging them. Meanwhile, a feature called “automatic alternative text,” released last year, enables visually-impaired Facebook users to hear a somewhat detailed description of the photo. A person using automatic alternative text on a photo of a group of people in the woods would hear, “This image may contain: Three people, smiling, outdoors.”

Lens joins a series of food recipe-related features Pinterest announced on Wednesday, including a new filter that let Pinterest features search by dietary preferences like vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and paleo, as well as time filters that sift out recipes based on how long they take to make.

If Lens is accurate in detecting meals and offering relevant recipes, the feature would be a significant step forward for AI-powered applications aimed at mainstream users. Of, course whether the recipes it serves passes muster for those with a discerning palate, is another matter entirely.

JP Mangalindan is a senior correspondent for Yahoo Finance covering the intersection of tech and business. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.  

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