Shazam isn’t just audio, now offers visual ID

There’s a good chance you can identify something with your eyes, but if you want to know more, Shazam is getting into more than just audio identification, with picture ID, too.

This is an odd one, because we’re all quite capable of working out what something is with our eyes, but just in case you’re having troubles with that, Shazam — the app (and company) that practically pioneered the process of working out what that song is that’s playing while you’re shopping or at a restaurant — has found a way to improve on the visual recognition we have.

In fact, from this week, Shazam gets a degree of understanding that our eyes and brain can normally work out by throwing more information our way when we Shazam a photo, a poster, packaged products, and more.

From this week, if an object or printed image has the Shazam logo on it, there’s a good chance you can Shazam it with the app and the camera on your phone, with more information being offered through the app, such as interactive content, extra information, and more.

The camera on your phone will work as a scanner for Shazam’s visual identification.


It probably won’t surprise you that this extra form of Shazam is being skewed towards advertising, with Universal integrating it into a campaign for the upcoming “Jurassic World” movie, while Warner Bros will employ it for a “Batman: Arkham Knight” video game this year, but more than how it will be used, we’re curious on how it actually works.

For that, we spoke to Shazam, with representatives for the company telling GadgetGuy that the app and camera are looking for a series of pixels in a unique pattern, hiding them in colour in the image. According to Shazam’s people the cameras in our phones can see the pixels even if our eyes cannot, and most smartphones out there have no problem seeing this specific detail, with low-end smartphones the only ones that will end up not working with this concept.

Perhaps most interesting of all is that while this process is similar to a black-and-white QR code, the sort of modern barcode, the technology requires colours to work, specifically a CMYK four-colour print, and black and white images are not compatible.

With this in mind, you’ll only see the Shazam visual ID on colour prints, on colour packaging, so to speak.

That said, just because you see a Shazam logo on a print doesn’t mean you have to pull out your phone and Shazam the image, as it’s obviously not a requirement.

It’s not a hard guess to work out that a poster of “Jurassic World” is going to Shazam an advertisement for that film, but if you’re looking for more information, this might just deliver it, and is faster than typing in the website if you’re on your phone at the time.

Either of these posters can be snapped using Shazam's visual ID to take you to the Jurassic World webpage. Yep, that's modern advertising.
Either of these posters can be snapped using Shazam’s visual ID to take you to the Jurassic World webpage. Yep, that’s modern advertising.

“We wanted new ways for people in Australia to engage with our upcoming blockbuster movies,” said Suzanne Stretton-Brown, Marketing Director at Universal Pictures International in Australia, adding that “the launch of the visual functionality on Shazam is allowing us to make our movie artwork more interactive and exciting.”

“This is part of a four-movie deal between Shazam and Universal Pictures International in Australia, allowing us to get even closer to our fans through their mobiles,” said Brown.

Visual Shazam information goes live this week in prints and images across the country.