An ever-increasing number of companies are using image recognition software in their products. Amazon, for example, filed a patent that will allow customers to pay for goods using just a photo or video of themselves. Now, IBM is showing off its AI software by offering an online demo for people to see how accurate its Watson cognitive computing system is at identifying photos.

The demo provides six images to test Watson's abilities, but the best part is being able to upload your own pictures. The results are offered up as a series of 'classifiers,' alongside a confidence score for each one. In the horse racing sample image, for example, Watson is 99 percent confident that it shows horses. The system is also pretty good at identifying images as a whole; in this case, it's 95 percent certain that the photo also shows a race.

Even though it's not always able to recognize images (it completely failed to identify a picture of a flag I uploaded, probably because it was slightly folded by the wind), it's still right a lot of the time and shows the power of IBM's technology.

Whereas most image analysis and classification techniques require users to describe and tag visual content manually, IBM's system - available to developers via an API - automatically annotates images based on visual content alone. The service uses semantic classifiers built with machine-learning technology to recognize visual entities such as settings, objects, and events based on content such as color, texture, shape, and edges.

Developers can train Watson to become better at identifying objects by creating custom classifiers and uploading associated images for it to learn. You can try this in the demo, but you'll need to upload at least 50 pictures and they won't be saved once you exit the browser.

Watson achieved fame in 2011 when it beat two of the world's top Jeopardy! players. Since then, IBM has put its talents to use in a number of commercial applications. The new image recognition service, which is available through the IBM Watson Developer Cloud on Bluemix, is already being used by several organizations, including shipping firm MP Maritime as a way of identifying vessels from satellite images.

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