Amazon Integrates 'Augmented Reality' for Faster Buying
By Barry Levine / Mobile Tech Today. Updated February 07, 2014.
Can Amazon induce you to buy even faster? The company is trying its best with the integration of an “augmented reality” function into its main shopping app to make buying as simple as possible.
The company has told news media that it would like to shoppers to become actual customers within two seconds or less, as opposed to the previous, relatively leisurely 30-second window of time it took them to make purchases. To shorten that window, the company has now added its Flow app to the main Amazon app. The Flow app, introduced in 2011 as “augmented reality” software, allows a user to scan an item in a store through a smartphone camera, and Amazon will find that item in its huge inventory.
This image recognition function is different from the older-fashioned way of scanning the barcode or even the ancient way of typing the name of the item into the search field. If the image recognizer doesn’t recognize the item, a user can still scan the barcode or type in the name. Books, video games, CDs and DVDs are among the products that reportedly work best with Flow, apparently because the packaging pattern helps the recognizer. Items can also be scanned one after another, each one saved into search history.
Garbage Bags, Baby Wipes
Flow Powered by Amazon was launched in November of 2011 by A9.com, an Amazon subsidiary. Because the original Flow was separate from the main app, users of the original version would have to find the item, take a photo and then separately make the purchase using the main Amazon app.
The newly integrated Flow, currently available for only the iOS Amazon app, allows a user to scan and then immediately buy. Flow is still available as a separate app on iTunes or in the Google Play store. The company has not said if or when the integration will take place for the Android version of Amazon’s app.
Sam Hall, vice president of Amazon Mobile, said in a statement that Flow “instantly matches products in your home to items on Amazon.” He suggested that, "once you have added that box of garbage bags or baby wipes, just keep moving your phone over other packaged goods you need to restock” and the app will recognize the product and save it into the search history.
The result, he said, is that a shopper could take care “of your shopping needs in seconds.”
To use this function, users must have the latest version of the Amazon app. They would then click on the search bar and the Flow option. This starts the iPhone camera scanning the scene in front of it. Because items are added to search history, a user can employ the history to add each item in turn to the checkout cart.
The integration of Flow will likely promote the practice of showrooming, where a shopper sees a product in a brick-and-mortar store and uses a smartphone or tablet to check whether it’s available cheaper online. Although Amazon is pitching this integrated app as a way to quickly replenish standard household items from your shelves at home, it will undoubtedly be used in retailers’ stores as well.
This trend could also be amplified if and when Amazon ever releases its own smartphone, which it has been rumored to be developing. Such a device would likely be optimized for this comparison shopping.