Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Naver's "SmartLens" visual search tool


Naver has released their own visual search tool, called Naver SmartLens (스마트렌즈), which lets you point your phone's camera at a real-life object and get back search results from it.

Promo image for Naver SmartLens. Image: Naver

It functions similarly to Google Goggles. SmartLens will detect a variety of real life objects and bring up various similar results and keywords, which can be narrowed down (in the image) by the user.

It's not a stand-alone app. It's part of the normal Naver search app. Just tap the camera icon in the  normal search bar, to bring up all the other search methods: by music, voice, Chinese/Japanese characters, QR code, or now SmartLens. You'll then be able to snap a new photo, upload a photo already in your gallery, from cloud storage, your blog, etc.

Official examples of SmartLens features


SmartLens keyword results and 'narrowing down'. Image: Naver

Notice on the right, the widest view of the image of a room was selected, and the 3 returned keywords were:

  • interior
  • chair
  • dresser ("서랍장" was a new word for me)

Similar images are displayed below the keywords. In the middle picture, we focus on just the chair, and get:

  • chair
  • fabric sofa

Now we can identify the chair from among the returned similar results, and the left picture shows that chair result, as:

  • chair
  • IKEA
  • 1-person use / single
Cool, now I know to go buy it from IKEA, or likely right online the IKEA website, which I'm guessing is where the chair-only image came from.

If Naver's AI recognizes the item itself, you won't have to go fishing for it like this. It will automatically bring up appropriate content. For example:


Contents Cards in SmartLens results. Image: Naver

Here, SmartLens recognized the dog as an English Springer Spaniel, and the building location as Shanghai. It even identified that coat, including its price and where to buy from.

Other news articles I read about SmartLens suggested that this (the shopping connection) was its real purpose: you see a cute one-piece on a K-drama, and you just have to buy it, so you Naver Visual Search it, and a few clicks later, it's yours. Everybody wins, and capitalism rejoices.

My test of SmartLens


This wouldn't be 10원 Tips without a bunch of screenshots, so let's take a look at how SmartLens functioned for me in real life today. It's available in the Naver app (both Android/iOS) right now. I got the update notification just tonight, so you may need to update yours. It will come to the mobile site version later.

Screenshot times have been tastefully blacked out. (I'm supposed to be working, but snuck into the meeting room. Let's see what we find in there.)

SmartLens board marker example

Board marker test successful. Interestingly, the keyword for board marker disappeared when I "focused" on the marker itself, but the related images clearly indicate what it is. You can either use SmartLens's own suggested "border" of focus area, or resize the square yourself. 

SmartLens oil diffuser example

Diffuser basically worked, but I don't know if calling it a perfume is exactly right. Somebody ought to change that thing. It's running low. But hey, that's not my area. 

SmartLens mug example

Yes, it's a mug. That second related image was exactly right. Though it just leads to a blog post about that particular Corelle mug. I thought the shopping results might come up, with this or especially with the board marker. 

SmartLens Cliffs of Moher example

I had this in my gallery still, since its my phone's current background. It correctly identified it as the Cliffs of Moher. Tapping the keywords here brought up Naver card results (similar to Google's Knowledge Graph card results).

SmartLens speaker example

Speakers check out. But wrong type returned. Again, mostly blog results. No shopping results?

SmartLens Kakao Friends example

It knew these were emoticon characters. I'm surprised it didn't know they're from Kakao (maybe I should have shown it Line characters). It did know this is for a birthday greeting, though. 

SmartLens stapler example

The stapler test failed. It kept alternating between thinking its a mini vacuum cleaner, or an iron, depending on focus box.



Overall not bad. Very handy. This is one area where I feel like Google is running behind. The Goggles functionality should have been incorporated into the main Google search app a long time ago. I guess they're just relying on us voluntarily sharing all our photos with them into Google Photos.

Of course on the other hand, Goggles is pretty good at extracting text from snapped photos. SmartLens, meanwhile, never did seem to catch on to any text, Korean or English.

Anyway give it a try and let me know if you get any shopping results. Here are the main Naver app links where you'll be able to use SmartLens:


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