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Pinterest’s New AI Features Let You Snap Your Meal And Find The Recipe

The ability to search and explore recipes directly from your “food porn” pictures puts the app in direct competition with cooking sites.

Pinterest’s New AI Features Let You Snap Your Meal And Find The Recipe

Today Pinterest announced new ways for users to collect, search, and explore recipes–positioning the popular image-collecting site to further compete with cooking sites like Epicurious.com.

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On Tuesday, the company released updates to Pinterest Lens, a feature that recommends recipes for ingredients and suggests related recipes when a user searches for a specific dish. That means that if you search for “lemon,” you might be directed to a lemon chicken recipe. (And it’s just another reminder of how prescient HBO’s Silicon Valley is, with its recent plot line on the development of a “See-Food” app.)

Lens now offers “full dish recognition,” a visual discovery technology tool that utilizes AI to recognize meals and suggest inspired recipes.

“We’re applying computer vision technology not just to identify an ingredient, but show you how to make the dish itself,” PR manager Dyani Vanderhorst wrote in a press release.

That means that should you go to an Olive Garden and take a selfie with an eggplant parmesan, you can then use that photo to search for similar recipes–straight from your phone. Before this new update, you could search by a specific singular ingredient (say “cucumber” or “raspberry”) but not by posting an image of a full dish, like waffles or quesadillas.

This will prove extremely useful for brands and ad networks, which are specifically interested in visual capabilities.

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“As more and more people turn to Pinterest for meal inspiration and use these new features to help them find and make the recipes they love, this provides even more opportunities for brands to be discovered,” a Pinterest spokesperson told Fast Company in an email. “We encourage businesses to get all of their recipe content on Pinterest to increase their chances of coming up in search results right when the Pinner is looking for it.”

The San Francisco-based company sees over 250 million visual searches a month, and is currently “applying sophisticated machine learning to the problem of identifying what’s in all those images,” according to the company website.

Pinterest Search, meanwhile, now offers new food filters, such as cook time, ingredients, and dietary preference (vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc). The company found that, year over year, “U.S. Pinners are saving 52% more vegan recipes, 63% more gluten-free recipes, and 88% more dairy-free recipes, which reflects the changing consumer mind-set.”

Pinterest’s top pizza recipe, for example, is vegetarian, while the top sandwich doesn’t even contain bread. Cashew milk is now a “go-to ingredient” for dairy-free ice cream.

In its most substantial nod to fellow recipe sites, Pinterest will now also feature star ratings and written reviews for each recipe. This includes feedback and photos from fellow Pinners who have made the dish.

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Food and drink is a top category on the site, with over 15 billion ideas catalogued. And Pinners cook at home and spend 5% more on groceries than the national average, according to a new study.

“With more people searching for recipes on their phone (mobile searches on Pinterest have increased 40% year-over-year), we wanted to make it easier to find recipes on the go,” says the spokesman. “Right now we’re focused on making it easier for Pinners to find and make the recipes they love, which means even more opportunities for our food partners to serve up content right when Pinners need it most.”