Facebook was pretty clear about one thing in its F8 keynote in April: the camera is now the most important thing on your phone.  And the rise of image-based communication in other platforms – Pinterest, Snapchat and Instagram – is a growing consumer trend.

Apps are aiming to get ahead (and stay ahead) of what consumers want in the move towards visual recognition and the introduction of visual search tools. One of the main platforms taking the lead is Pinterest. Though it’s been image-recognition enabled for some time, it’s now starting to roll out the technology to its search functions.
Instead of displaying only on keywords and other kinds of traditional tagging, advertisers will be able to serve ads that are relevant to the product on display. Pinterest president Tim Kendall unveiled the plans and showed off a few of the mechanics of it on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017.

“Until now we’ve only applied the visual discovery tech to the organic consumer facing products,” Kendall said. “But the news is we’re now applying it to ads.”

So irresistible is this opportunity that Shazam – that major audio company – is tapping into the technology to allow its users to search its databases visually. All consumers have to do is snap a picture of an item, and their mobile will return a suggested purchase instantly.

There is one drawback: consumers can only scan items that either already have a QR code or have Shazam’s camera logo. But the general thrust is in the right direction, laying the vital groundwork for expansion of this function in the most unlikely of sectors: music.

Spotify has also embraced the opportunity, going a little further with its new feature for sharing music via scannable images. The new ‘Spotify Codes’ feature creates a unique barcode and album cover image for every song, album, artist, and playlist. Scan these Spotify Codes with the new camera in the Spotify app’s search bar to instantly play that music.

With other companies like Canada’s Slyce raising nearly $30 million for its image recognition technology and major retailers Neiman Marcus in the US offering their own set of visual search features, momentum is gaining quickly. Such moves are warranted: the future of image search functionality will help to solve certain pain points in our lives and creates an opportunity too great for advertisers to ignore.

For the launch of Calvin Harris’ new album the7stars worked with Columbia and Kinetic to take advantage of the new Spotify codes, generating a new way to stream music directly from outdoor posters.