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Sotheby's wants AI to find your next art purchase

It has purchased the image recognition startup Thread Genius.
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Noah Wunsch

Most folks don't know much about art, but do know what they like. Auction firm Sotheby's has embraced that idea with its acquisition of Thread Genius, a company that uses AI to find art based on images of paintings, watches, furniture and other items. Sotheby's said it will marry the tech with data it already stores to help clients find objects that match their taste and budgets (terms of the sale weren't disclosed).

Prior to founding Thread Genius in 2015, the engineers behind it helped Spotify develop its song-matching technology. The app they created, shown in the video below, works much like Google's image search feature, finding artworks, clothing and other collectibles that are visually similar to uploaded images. It can even match specific parts of an artwork by letting you draw a vector around a portion of it.

Sotheby's recently teamed with eBay to livestream high-end auctions. In 2016, it also purchased the Mei Moses Art Indices, an analytic tool that uses a database of 50,000 repeat auctions to help auctioneers predict the prices of objects in future sales. With the purchase of Thread Genius, it seems to be heading in an even more Google-like direction by combining data analysis with AI to target potential clients.

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