NLM Pill Image Recognition Project Home Page

An Initiative of the NLM Computational Photography
Project for Pill Identification (C3PI)

The overall goal of the PIR Project is to develop smart phone apps that individuals can use to take pictures of prescription pills and then search for and retrieve pill images and associated data of likely matches in NLM’s RxIMAGE database (described below). Examples of pills are capsules and tablets intended for oral use.


The most recent step toward achieving this goal was taken on February 2, 2015, when NLM issued a Pill Image Recognition Request for Information (the PIR Pilot). A PDF of the RFI includes illustrative images. The RFI was also announced in the NIH Guide Notice.

The deadline for responding to this RFI has been extended to May 15, 2015.

The new schedule for the RFI is:

February 2, 2015   Consumer image files and reference image files made available
April 6, 2015          Start date for accepting responses to the RFI
May 15, 2015         End date for accepting responses to the RFI

Respondents to this RFI are asked to develop algorithms and software that indicate how well consumer images match reference images taken from NLM’s RxIMAGE database of pill images.


The RFI is a pilot for the PIR Challenge to be held later in 2015. The Challenge has as its main objective the development and discovery of high-quality software that matches images of unknown prescription pills to images in the RxIMAGE database.
This PIR Project home page will include links to PIR Challenge materials once the Challenge is announced.


NLM’s RxIMAGE database, which is used in both the PIR Pilot and the PIR Challenge, is the Nation’s only portfolio of curated, freely available, increasingly comprehensive, high-quality digital images of prescription pills and associated data. The RxIMAGE API is a freely accessible Application Programming Interface that software developers can use to create apps for text-based search and retrieval from the RxIMAGE database.


The PIR Project, PIR Challenge, and the RxIMAGE API and database are part of the Computational Photography Project for Pill Identification. C3PI is a research and development project in the Office of High Performance Computing and Communications (OHPCC) in NLM’s Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications.