Release Notes

The following new features and changes to the service are available.

16 May 2017

New food classifier is available - Beta

  • A new beta food recognition model provides enhanced specificity and accuracy for images of food items. The Classify an image method allows you to add this new classifier, "food", to the classifier_ids parameter.

5 April 2017

New Visual Recognition tool is available - Beta

  • A new beta feature, the Visual Recognition tool, is available at This tool helps you work more easily with the Visual Recognition service. By entering your Bluemix API key, you can use a GUI to access General Tagging and Face Detection features, as well as to seamlessly create, retrain, and delete custom classifiers associated with your API key, without needing to code.

8 March 2017

Updated language support for general classifier tagging

  • The general classifier will now return tags in all supported languages.

Known issues

  • FIXED 04-13-2017: Repeatedly calling GET /classifiers while training or retraining is in progress, in order to check the status, can result in killing the training job. To workaround this issue, poll a new classifier's status using GET /classifiers/{classifier_id}. In other words, use the classifier GET for a single classifier ID, rather than GET /classifiers, which gets all classifiers, and can trigger this issue. Note that GET /classifiers/{classifier_id} is also faster.

15 December 2016

Improved general classifier tagging

  • We updated the general classifier's deep learning algorithms. There is a significant improvement in tag quality for all languages, and a significant increase in the volume of English tags returned by the service. This high-quality tag output is also available when you create your own custom classifier.
  • We added color tagging. Now, the top one to two colors in the image are returned.

Known issues

  • Images submitted to the demo with EXIF meta-data tags do not specify orientation (landscape versus portrait) correctly to the service. iPhone uploaded images may contain EXIF meta-data tags. The workaround for this is to update your image metadata to not rely on EXIF meta-data tags to specify the orientation of your image. Often, you can do this just by opening the image on your computer and saving it. For example, on a Mac, opening in Preview and then saving the image sets the correct orientation tags.
  • Sending images to the Visual Recognition service with EXIF tag values of 8, 3 or 6 can add latency. The service rotates the pixels of the image to the encoded viewpoint. You can save time by pre-rotating your images, or by removing the EXIF headers if they are not important to your Visual Recognition task.

1 December 2016

New pricing

  • We've lowered the pricing of custom classifiers on the Visual Recognition ervice, and we've increased what's available on the free plan. For more information, see the Visual Recognition pricing page.

7 October 2016

Face detection enhancements

  • We have a new face-detection algorithm that improves the response of the GET and POST /v3/detect_faces methods. We've adjusted the filtering of low-confidence age, name, and gender facial detections. As a result, more faces are found, and a larger range of confidences are returned.

8 September 2016

  • Similarity Search BETA - Users can now upload their own collection of images, use an image to search that collection for similar images, and then the service returns the top 100 most similar images. Similarity search can be utilized for any purpose, and users can custom train the service on collections of up to 1 million images each. For more information on using the new similarity search functionality, see the Tutorial, and the API reference pages.
  • Text recognition is now closed beta - We have gone back into a closed beta with the POST and GET /v3/recognize_text methods. We look forward to continuing to support BETA clients using the service, with no current plans for another open beta.

1 August 2016

  • Introductory pricing ending - Custom classifier training and retraining, custom image classification, and custom classifier storage is no longer free. For information on the pricing, see the Visual Recognition service pricing page.

5 July 2016

Updating custom classifiers

  • Custom classifiers are no longer limited to a fixed set of training data. A user can now update existing classifiers with new images, or add additional positive or negative example classifiers to an existing trained classifer. By supplying additional example images for Watson to learn from, the service can make a user’s classifier more accurate. Custom classifiers can now learn over time, continuously getting better at understanding visual information.

Known issues

  • FIXED 04-13-2017: Users may get a 500 error code after 30 or 90 seconds when updating an existing classifier. Despite the error, there is a good chance that the retrain request completes successfully. Wait at least 2 minutes, and then check the status of the classifier by using the GET classifiers/{classifier\_id} method. If the status is "ready" and the "retrained" timestamp has been updated, the retraining request which generated the 500 code was successful. Otherwise, if the "retrained" timestamp has not been updated, there is an explanation added to the response which says why the retraining failed, and the service will revert the classifier to the version there was before the retrain request was issued.

20 May 2016

This is the General Availability release of the Visual Recognition service. This release introduces Version 3 of the service, and is a breaking change. This release incorporates functionality from the AlchemyVision service, which has been deprecated.

Any custom classifiers that were created while the service was in Beta must be recreated in a GA instance of the service.

The following changes and updates were made to the Visual Recognition service:

  • Version date: To utilize the features of this release, use 2016 05-20 as the value for the version parameter.
  • Classes and classifiers: Single classifiers are now called "classes". In GA, a group of classes is called a "classifier".
  • Classification: Use the POST or GET /v3/classify methods to quickly and accurately identify a variety of subjects and scenes with default classes.
  • Face detection: Use the POST or GET /v3/detect_faces methods to detect faces in images and get information about them, such as where the face is located in the image and the estimated age range and gender for each face. The service can also identify many celebrities by name and can rovide a knowledge graph so that you can perform interesting aggregations into higher-evel concepts.
  • Multi-faceted custom classifiers: You can now create and train highly-pecialized classifiers that are defined by several classes. For example, you can create a "new_red_car" classifier that is defined by the classes "new_cars" and "red_cars". To learn more about creating multi-faceted classifiers, see Structure of the training data.
  • Asynchronous training: Training of custom classifiers is now asynchronous, so training calls complete quickly while your custom classifier continues to learn in the background. To check on the training status of your custom classifier and find out when it is available for use, call the GET /v3/classifiers/{classifier_id} method and check the status response parameter.

2 December 2015

The newest release of the Visual Recognition service is a breaking change that introduces a new version of the Visual Recognition API (v2). Version 1 of the Visual Recognition service is available for use until the service exits beta.

To immediately start using version 2 of the API, understand and update your code to reflect these changes:

  • In version 1 of the service, you analyzed images by labels. In version 2 of the service, labels are called classifiers. Classifiers have a unique classifier ID indicated by the classifier_id parameter and a short name indicated by the name parameter.
  • The POST /v1/recognize method for analyzing an image is now the POST /v2/classify method. The labels_to_check parameter is renamed to classifier_ids.
  • The GET /v1/tag/labels method for retrieving a list of labels in V1 is now the GET /v2/classifiers method for retrieving a list of classifiers.
  • In addition to retrieving a list of classifiers, you can also retrieve details for a specific classifier with the new GET /v2/classifiers/{classifier_id} method.
  • Version 2 of the Beta Visual Recognition API enables you to create custom classifiers with the new POST /v2/classifiers method. To learn more about creating custom classifiers, see Creating custom classifiers.
  • Version 2 of the Beta Visual Recognition API also enables you to delete custom classifiers with the new DELETE /v2/classifiers method.
  • Version 2 of the Beta Visual Recognition API requires the version parameter. Specify the release date of the version of the API you want to use in MM-DD-YYYY format.