Label images with ML Kit on iOS

You can use ML Kit to label objects recognized in an image. The default model provided with ML Kit supports 400+ different labels.

See the ML Kit quickstart sample on GitHub for an example of this API in use.

Before you begin

  1. Include the following ML Kit libraries in your Podfile:
    pod 'GoogleMLKit/ImageLabeling'
  2. After you install or update your project's Pods, open your Xcode project using its .xcworkspace. ML Kit is supported in Xcode version 11.3.1 or higher.

Now you are ready to label images.

1. Prepare the input image

Create a VisionImage object using a UIImage or a CMSampleBufferRef.

If you use a UIImage, follow these steps:

  • Create a VisionImage object with the UIImage. Make sure to specify the correct .orientation.


    let image = VisionImage(image: UIImage)
    visionImage.orientation = image.imageOrientation


    MLKVisionImage *visionImage = [[MLKVisionImage alloc] initWithImage:image];
    visionImage.orientation = image.imageOrientation;

If you use a CMSampleBufferRef, follow these steps:

  • Specify the orientation of the image data contained in the CMSampleBufferRef buffer.

    To get the image orientation:


    func imageOrientation(
      deviceOrientation: UIDeviceOrientation,
      cameraPosition: AVCaptureDevice.Position
    ) -> UIImage.Orientation {
      switch deviceOrientation {
      case .portrait:
        return cameraPosition == .front ? .leftMirrored : .right
      case .landscapeLeft:
        return cameraPosition == .front ? .downMirrored : .up
      case .portraitUpsideDown:
        return cameraPosition == .front ? .rightMirrored : .left
      case .landscapeRight:
        return cameraPosition == .front ? .upMirrored : .down
      case .faceDown, .faceUp, .unknown:
        return .up


    - (UIImageOrientation)
                             cameraPosition:(AVCaptureDevicePosition)cameraPosition {
      switch (deviceOrientation) {
        case UIDeviceOrientationPortrait:
          return cameraPosition == AVCaptureDevicePositionFront ? UIImageOrientationLeftMirrored
                                                                : UIImageOrientationRight;
        case UIDeviceOrientationLandscapeLeft:
          return cameraPosition == AVCaptureDevicePositionFront ? UIImageOrientationDownMirrored
                                                                : UIImageOrientationUp;
        case UIDeviceOrientationPortraitUpsideDown:
          return cameraPosition == AVCaptureDevicePositionFront ? UIImageOrientationRightMirrored
                                                                : UIImageOrientationLeft;
        case UIDeviceOrientationLandscapeRight:
          return cameraPosition == AVCaptureDevicePositionFront ? UIImageOrientationUpMirrored
                                                                : UIImageOrientationDown;
        case UIDeviceOrientationUnknown:
        case UIDeviceOrientationFaceUp:
        case UIDeviceOrientationFaceDown:
          return UIImageOrientationUp;
  • Create a VisionImage object using the CMSampleBufferRef object and orientation:


    let image = VisionImage(buffer: sampleBuffer)
    image.orientation = imageOrientation(
      deviceOrientation: UIDevice.current.orientation,
      cameraPosition: cameraPosition)


     MLKVisionImage *image = [[MLKVisionImage alloc] initWithBuffer:sampleBuffer];
     image.orientation =
       [self imageOrientationFromDeviceOrientation:UIDevice.currentDevice.orientation

2. Configure and run the image labeler

To label objects in an image, pass the VisionImage object to the ImageLabeler's processImage() method.

  1. First, get an instance of ImageLabeler.


    let labeler = ImageLabeler.imageLabeler()
    // Or, to set the minimum confidence required:
    // let options = ImageLabelerOptions()
    // options.confidenceThreshold = 0.7
    // let labeler = ImageLabeler.imageLabeler(options: options)


    MLKImageLabeler *labeler = [MLKImageLabeler imageLabeler];
    // Or, to set the minimum confidence required:
    // MLKImageLabelerOptions *options =
    //         [[MLKImageLabelerOptions alloc] init];
    // options.confidenceThreshold = 0.7;
    // MLKImageLabeler *labeler =
    //         [MLKImageLabeler imageLabelerWithOptions:options];
  2. Then, pass the image to the processImage() method:


    labeler.process(image) { labels, error in
        guard error == nil, let labels = labels else { return }
        // Task succeeded.
        // ...


    [labeler processImage:image
               completion:^(NSArray<MLKImageLabel *> *_Nullable labels,
                            NSError *_Nullable error) {
                   if (error != nil) { return; }
                   // Task succeeded.
                   // ...

3. Get information about labeled objects

If image labeling succeeds, the completion handler receives an array of ImageLabel objects. Each ImageLabel object represents something that was labeled in the image. You can get each label's text description, index among all labels supported by the model, and the confidence score of the match. For example:


for label in labels {
    let labelText = label.text
    let confidence = label.confidence
    let index = label.index


for (MLKImageLabel *label in labels) {
   NSString *labelText = label.text;
   float confidence = label.confidence;
   NSInteger index = label.index;

Tips to improve real-time performance

If you want to label images in a real-time application, follow these guidelines to achieve the best framerates:

Next steps