Amazon's A9 software unit has launched Flow Powered by Amazon and augmented reality shopping application to help consumers search for info on books, DVDs and more.
Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) Web application business A9.com Nov. 2
launched a free iPhone application that leverages augmented reality to
it easier for consumers to search for information on goods Amazon
Flow Powered by Amazon
lets users point their iPhone's
camera at the UPC codes affixed to books, DVDs, video games and millions of other products.
When Flow recognizes the product, the app shows graphical
overlays with information about that product from Amazon.com, including
choice to play videos about the product or read customer reviews and
ratings. Consumers may then share info about the products via
e-mail, Facebook or Twitter.
"This is our first step towards integrating product
search technology with augmented reality,"
said A9.com President Bill Stasior, president of A9.com
. "The integration
of a live camera display, graphical overlays, and visual recognition technology
creates a seamless experience for a customer looking to discover information
about objects in their physical surroundings."
Think of Flow
as the Amazon.com shopping experience taken
out of the desktop, dropped on an iPhone with some real-world elements thrown
in the mix.
Flow is something of a blend of the Google Goggles visual
search application and the Google Shopper e-commerce app. Goggles is a visual
search app that lets users take pictures of paintings, books, landmarks, Sudoku
puzzles and other objects
Google Shopper lets users search for products from an
iPhone or Android handset
by text or voice input, choose a specific product
that looks useful, and compare prices at online and local retailers.
are actually in a store where they find the product can scan the bar code of a
product using their mobile phone's camera to retrieve more information,
including pricing and other specifications.
It's expected Google will splice Goggles and Shopper and offer
users some AR overlay. This would put Google in more direct competition with
Amazon's Flow app, which is not available for Android handsets yet.
In fact, Flow is only available for iPhone in U.S. to
date and requires iOS 4 and later versions to run.
Amazon's A9's choice to launch Flow during the holiday
season makes sense, though it is questionable whether any but the most forward-looking
of application adopters will try out the product. AR is new enough that most
consumers will need a push over the technology cliff to try such a newfangled
What A9's Flow does underscore is yet another way Amazon and Google
are competing for online real estate. Amazon has shown a strong
interest in expanding its media services purview, offering and Android
Appstore and preparing the Kindle Fire media tablet for launch.
Google has shown with Shopper, Google Offers daily deals and Google
Wallet mobile payments that is has increasing interest in helping
consumers buy goods.