Shazam launches visual recognition function: now any image can act as trigger to unlock content

Shazam launches visual recognition function: now any image can act as trigger to unlock content

Shazam has been in the music and sound recognition game a long time, developing sophisticated technology to reduce search time and make sure users of the service receive almost-instantaneous feedback on their queries. This strategy served the company well, as it has grown to over 100 million monthly active users. 

Now, the company has decided to complement its sound recognition feature with a visual recognition function that will enable content owners and brands to ‘tag’ objects and images with special content and links. The slogan for the new feature is "See it. Shazam it". 

Users can simply point their phone towards the image and voila’, the content is served, with the company stressing in particular how this could be a powerful way to draw users in with special offers on products and services. 

The new function should eliminate the need for convoluted and hopefully soon extinct QR codes and means that the company will not need for every piece of content to have an auditory cue in order to work with Shazam, which opens up opportunities in the real world with both print advertising and outdoor advertising.

Shazam has already lined up a number of partners including Time Inc., Warner Brothers, Evian, Target for the roll-out. 

The key issue for the company is to make users understand when they can use this function, since at the moment in spite of the high-profile partnerships the chances of an ordinary person coming across these visual cues will be few and far between.

Shazam's move could also give rise to interesting alternative marketing opportunities as in theory companies may be able to trigger alerts/offers via everyday objects. This means Evian could, again in theory, call for Shazam users to point their phones towards any glass of water and unlock a discount to purchase some of its bottled water. 

Shazam is not the first company to work on this and it already has a fierce competitor in Google, as the search giant has made incredible advancements in the field of photo recognition as the search feature in Google Photos unveiled at yesterday’s Google I/O keynote shows. 

However, Shazam has the advantage of being in the pockets of hundreds of millions of people exactly for the purpose of finding content triggered by real-world situations, which could put the company at an advantage in this space. 

From the point of view of artists and labels, this would enable a band to have the billboards announcing their tour take users directly to the ticketing website or could enable bands to trigger a special offer on the pre-order of their latest album. The opportunities are there, but the key question is whether users will actively take their phones out of their pockets to follow the cues.


(Andrea Leonelli)