3-D Seek Doodle Search Engine Now Available for Testing with 6,000 Items in Index
3-D Seek is a joint effort of Imaginestics and the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program which is a search engine that lets users find items in an online catalog without ever needing to know the items’ names, part numbers or keywords. Instead of searching by term, the user simply draws a freehand sketch, or a doodle.
3D-Seek was originally designed for manufacturing firms, which are constantly looking for hinges, bolts, conveyor belts, motors and a host of other products. However 3D-Seeks feels that the basic search engine could “prove equally useful for ordinary shoppers: instead of having to go to the hardware store lugging, say, a specific plumbing joint, a customer could just sketch what he or she needed to find an exact match.” 3D-Seek is now open for public testing.
“In order to make such a search engine commercially viable we had to overcome the challenge of matching something as rudimentary as a doodle to a 3-D object – in seconds,” said Nainesh Rathod, co-founder and President of Imaginestics. “This is important, as Web users have become accustomed to retrieving information instantaneously. Our shape-search engine processes data that are far more complex then those handled by the leading Internet search engines, and yet still finds results quickly.”
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The 3D-Seek catalog currently contains more than 6,000 parts and continues to grow as suppliers manually upload their files or as the system’s i-crawler web spider discovers parts online. A related technology, i-prowler, hunts for image files on a user’s computer and merges them with either the online database or an internal company catalog – critical for large companies that may not have simple mechanisms to search internal inventories.
Even global corporations can have difficulty tracking supplies internally. According to Rathod, a Fortune 100 manufacturer recently estimated that lack of a proper search technology resulted in duplicate purchases for 10 to 16 percent of parts. One reason is that factories creating the same product, yet located continents apart, will go to different suppliers for the same component. Those suppliers may have to independently engineer the components from scratch, which can be costly. With an easily searchable company-wide database, even metric conversion would not stand in the way of a part search.