Augmented reality (AR) often receives less hype than virtual reality, but as games like Pokemon Go proved, it is a significantly more accessible and in some ways more practical technology. Rather than requiring dedicated hardware like the Oculus Rift, AR features can be integrated into multipurpose devices like smartphones or tablets, as well as be the key feature on more dedicated devices like Google Glass. With a number of obvious commercial applications, Amazon has recently unveiled new app functionality that will use AR to enhance the online shopping experience.
Called AR View, the new app function does essentialyl what games like Pokemon Go do, overlaying digital objects onto the actual environment through a smartphones camera, but with products on the Amazon store. The company unveiled the new feature on Wednesday, demonstrating it through the iOS version of their mobile shopping app, as it was built using Apple’s ARKit software. During the demonstration, Amazon used the feature to show how customers could use the augmented reality technology to demo how a piece of furniture might look in their home or office before committing to purchasing it. Users could place and rotate the object, be it a chair or blender, and get a feel for how it might fit into their living space.
While AR view is far from ready for mass release, it is already functional with several thousand of the products sold in Amazon’s store, with many examples from home decor, kitchen appliances, and furniture. The current version’s 3d models of products aren’t particularly detailed and haven’t fully achieved the “reality” aspect of AR, but overall the tech is promising and offers plenty of room for expansion and development.
Amazon isn’t the only company embracing augmented reality as a way for customers to replicate the hands-on experience brick-and-mortar shopping gives in their online stores. Target, Ikea, Houzz, and Wayfair, have all revealed similar functionality in their shopping apps. That said, Amazon clearly dominates the world of ecommerce, so their planned development and adoption of augmented reality functions in their shopping app will likely impact customers much more, and for the better. It should also be interesting to see what other products Amazon adds to AR View’s growing library. The ability to virtually try on clothing is an obvious choice, and given how much smartphone cameras have advanced in their ability to recognize human forms for things like bio-metric security or photo/video apps, such a feature could be available in the near future.