How we built a take-away menu image search engine in just 50 lines of code

June 24, 2010

I often want to Google my flat. Especially when I’m ordering take-away and can’t find the menu.

This would be handy:

We almost built that.

Not long ago I scanned all my personal documents and saved them in my Evernote so I could easily retrieve them simply by searching for the words that appear in them.

Then, in my kitchen, looking for the paper menu for the local Thai place, I asked myself why on Earth haven’t I added the menus to my Evernote?

Being a web person, wanting to share it came next.

I teamed up with Kenneth who built the first working version of the site in less than two hours and less than 50 lines of code!

Less than 50 lines of code. For a system that

  • Stores all menus
  • Indexes the text on those menus
  • Searches that text
  • Receives new menus via email
  • Has a backend for administration with clients that run on web, Android, iPhone, etc

This is what the final site looks like

It’s live on (currently Danish only)

Obviously, this isn’t what Evernote had in mind when they opened their API. In fact, they told us they had never quite seen anything like it. Luckily, they liked it, and we found ourselves an end product that makes sense for both parties.

Hopefully we will be able to generate a few signups and at least some awareness, and in return we get this wonderful backend:

I think this demonstrates not only the power of the Evernote platform, but also how future websites could be built. Take OCR from one app, voice recognition from another, and a third super power from a third app, and you have yourself a new service. Only writing the code that ties them together.