Walter S. Mossberg and Katherine Boehret

Where to Find a Famous Look

(See Corrections & Amplifications item below.)

Most shoppers would admit to, at one time or another, looking for an item based on seeing it worn by a celebrity. No matter that most of us don’t remotely resemble celebrities, nor do we share their shrewd fashion sense or Hollywood budget. We know that the objects seen on camera start trends.

But without the superstar luxury of a personal shopper, most of us don’t know where to begin looking for the necklace we saw Jennifer Aniston wearing at her latest movie premiere.

Starting today, a new Web site called Like.com (www.like.com) hopes to help solve this problem. It displays recent photos of about a thousand celebrities (mostly female), with a focus on their purse, jewelry, shoes or watch — but not their clothing. Beside a close-up of the celebrity item, Like.com shows similar products with different price tags and/or different brands, along with a link to buy the product online.

Photo
Like.com, by Riya, is a visual search engine that lets you search for products such as those worn by celebrities.

The idea behind Like.com is simple enough, but the technology that makes it possible is quite complicated. Like.com comes from a visual search engine called Riya, which works by studying one image and finding others that match it. Like.com also lets you pinpoint the specific part of the image that you like, and can search with extra emphasis on color, shape or pattern.

Like.com is a free site that runs on Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 6 and 7 as well as Mozilla Firefox versions 1.5 and 2.0. The company also says it will most likely work on Apple’s Safari browser. It worked well for us on these browsers.

For the past week, we’ve been dodging glances from suspecting co-workers while shopping online using Like.com, testing its ability to find products like those last seen with our favorite luminaries. We like its clean setup, and it makes great use of technology that lets the site act like a software program all its own. We even found watches and handbags that we might buy down the line.

But we did have a few complaints. You can’t click on any picture anywhere on the Web to start your visual search; you have to start with the limited supply of celebrity photos on the Like.com site. The company says it is working on a browser toolbar that will allow you to use any picture on any Web page, and will soon allow you to upload a picture of your choice as a starting point.

Also, the small images of some celebrity products made it hard for us to know whether we liked the watch or jewelry enough to start a search for something like it.

Today, Like.com displays about four million product images. We started in watches and found a photo of Kate Moss wearing a handsome watch with a black leather band and a square, white face. A box drawn around the watch in the photo meant that it was an item we could search for on Like.com. The phrase “Likeness Search” also appeared below each watch, and when selected, this link started a new search for watches similar to that above.

Selecting the box took us to a new Web page, where Kate Moss’s watch was displayed on the left with its price ($150) and brand name (Croton). On the right, watches similar to Kate’s were shown, including a $75 Kenneth Cole, a $750 Gucci and a $2,000 New Longines DolceVita watch. The price and brand were listed below each, along with a link to a Web site where the watch was sold.

We used our cursor to draw a box around the feature in Kate Moss’s watch that we liked — its face. A pop-up window asked if we wanted to focus on the shape, color or shape and color of our boxed image; choosing shape generating 8,721 results for watches with square faces.

The Like.com page contains a lot of data, but is clean and uncluttered. At the top of each page, three sliders can be adjusted to narrow the search’s focus on color, shape or pattern. Along the left side, another slider can adjust price range and a color grid helps you to find products in the right hue. A Show Only section narrows your search to show only certain brands, styles, sizes or sites where the products are sold.

Searches can also be started the old-fashioned way, by typing text into a box. You can also search for items by starting with a specific celebrity, or by just browsing through products.

Like.com was missing a few simple things. We couldn’t adjust our search results to view products in ascending or descending price range; instead, the items most similar to your searched item appear first. And as we searched through product after product, we found ourselves wanting to bookmark our finds; placing them into a folder that we could return to later, but this isn’t yet possible.

We searched through Like.com’s jewelry, shoes and handbags, finding that jewelry had the least-accurate results. But we were pleased with handbags, after doing some tweaking and finding numerous satchels, like a $260 Monsac handbag shown with actress Angie Harmon.

The Like.com site is only in a testing phase and is still being fine-tuned, meaning improvements can be made quickly. This Web site won’t turn you into a celebrity, but it gives you the ability to see something you like in a photo and find it online quickly. We think shoppers and gift-buying friends alike will find Like.com useful.

Email: MossbergSolution@wsj.com.

Corrections & Amplifications:

The Web site Like.com mostly displays items for sale that are similar to those shown in celebrity photos. This column implied that the site identified and offered for sale the actual items worn by model Kate Moss and actress Angie Harmon. The company says its site gave the impression that it was displaying the actual items rather than just similar items and will post a clarification.


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