Deja Vu Uses Image Recognition to Make Photos Talk

August 15, 2011

10:24 pm

Released last Friday, a new iPhone and web app called Déjà Vu uses image recognition on your photos to figure out the category for each photo–like recipe or conference poster–and add links.

“We try to focus on visual memos in a simple, clear way,”  says Tom Desmet, marketing manager of Kooaba, the Zurich-based company that created the app. The simplicity comes with searchability, automatic location tagging, and synching photos with the cloud so your data is secure.

If you’re familiar with Kooaba, the app itself might induce a bit of déjà vu. Kooaba has created several apps with image recognition: Paperboy lets you snap photos of articles, share them with friends, explore related content, and remember them for later, and Vivino does the same for wine labels. Kooaba began crafting Déjà Vu after noticing that users of these apps had zeroed in on the “remember” feature.

Beyond newspapers and wine, Déjà Vu’s other suggested uses are evident in the available categories. These range from practical–business cards, screenshots, and receipts–to entertaining–music, movies, and games. In Kooaba’s feedback section, users are already requesting the option to create their own categories and, as it turns out, to share memos with friends.

In the end, Déjà Vu may stand or fall on the quality of its image recognition technology, which is based on a continually updated database of over 35 million images. My experience was mixed–the app successfully identified a book called Curious?, linking it to the category “books” and various Amazon listings. But it did not recognize a Japanese flag, a hamburger, or a recent New York Times front page. A Starbucks logo generated suggestions for four Starbucks-related books and a German newspaper clipping. And Desmet admits that business cards and fashion “aren’t being recognized very well.”

If users aren’t satisfied, Kooaba will have trouble convincing them to pay $19.99 per year to store more than 30 visual memos. And, besides Google Goggles, they are competing with other productivity apps that focus on text: users can add notes to images on Notica and Awesome Note, and Evernote recognizes text in images. But Kooaba has certainly learned to listen to its customers, and this definitely bodes well for its future.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact

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