Overview: Visual Recognition in Watson Studio

The IBM Watson Visual Recognition service uses deep learning algorithms to analyze images for scenes, objects, and other content. IBM Watson Studio provides a collaborative environment in the cloud where you can work with your images and your Visual Recognition custom models.


Attention: IBM Watson Visual Recognition is discontinued. Existing instances are supported until 1 December 2021, but as of 7 January 2021, you can’t create instances. Any instance that is provisioned on 1 December 2021 will be deleted.

Building a visual recognition classifier

Use the graphical Visual Recognition modeler to automatically train a model to classify images for scenes, objects, or your custom content.

Required service
Visual Recognition service. There can only be one instance per project.
Data format
Image: JPEG or PNG files in a .zip file, separated by class
Data size
Small to medium data sets
Building a classifier
Each image class must contain at least 10 images, collected in a zip file
Supported image file formats: JPEG (.jpg) and PNG (.png)
Minimum image size: 32 x 32 pixels
Collaborate to classify images
Use one of five built-in models or build your own
Test the model with sample images
Use CoreML to develop iOS apps
Add or remove images to retrain the model
Use Watson Visual Recognition APIs in applications

For more information on choosing the right tool for your data and use case, see Choosing a tool.

Visual Recognition service features

Visual Recognition is a service on IBM Cloud. You can use the service in your Watson Studio projects or outside of Watson Studio.

  • Built-in models
    • General model - Default classification from thousands of classes
    • Explicit model - Whether an image is inappropriate for general use
    • Food model - Specifically for images of food items
    • Text model - Text extraction from natural scene images
  • Custom models - Classify images according to your specific needs
  • Core ML - Include your custom models in iOS apps
  • Object detection models - Train a model to detect objects within images. This feature is available as a beta.

You can find details about supported plans and features on the Visual Recognition service details page external link in the IBM Cloud catalog.


Watson Studio tools

Visual Recognition model builder

The Visual Recognition model builder in Watson Studio makes it quick and easy to train and test custom models. The model builder also provides quick instructions for downloading ML model (.mlmodel) files for your custom model.

See: Creating a custom model

Visual Recognition model builder in Watson Studio

Image of model builder


Notebooks in Watson Studio provide a collaborative environment to use the Visual Recognition API.

See: Using built-in models

Using the Visual Recognition API in a notebook in Watson Studio

Image of a notebook