We tried Amazon's new augmented reality feature and saw how it could change how you shop online

Amazon ar 9AmazonAmazon’s new augmented reality feature allows customers to see what some products will look like in their homes.
  • Amazon recently added an augmented reality feature to its iOS app.
  • The feature allows users to see digital renderings of some items through their phone screens.
  • While the app had a few flaws, the execution was impressive. It was easy to understand how this technology might play a significant role in online retail one day.

Consumers are shopping online now, and that’s a problem for retailers that sell furniture and other home decor.

While they can use showrooms to give some customers a sense of what a new couch or rug will look like in their home, they don’t have the same advantage with those who shop online. The solution? Augmented reality, which allows consumers to overlay digital renderings of items onto their homes through their phone screens.

IKEA, Target, and Lowe’s have all debuted AR shopping technology in recent years, but Amazon recently joined the fray by adding a feature to its iOS app that allows users to sample a limited selection of products, most of which are home furnishings or electronics. The feature works on the iPhone 6S and later models, and the phone must have iOS 11 installed.

We tried the feature and, while the technology still has a few kinks to work out, it’s easy to see how augmented reality could continue to drive consumers away from brick-and-mortar stores.

Here’s how it works.

Amazon's app doesn't highlight the feature on the home screen.

Amazon

But it's easy to access by tapping the camera icon.

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The product selection is limited thus far, but most of the options are furniture, home decor, or electronics.

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Once you choose an item, the app will prompt you to point your camera toward a flat surface.

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After you settle on a location, the app will place a rendering of the object in that spot.

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From there, you can rotate or move the object across the screen.

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You can also change your height and angle, and the object will remain fixed in its place.

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If you move the camera toward the object, its relative size will adjust accordingly.

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The feature is particularly useful for furniture, as it lets you move a given piece around your space to see where it might fit best.

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The app also allows for a full, 360-degree range of motion ...

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... so you can consider the object from multiple angles.

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You can also move the object to another part of the room without having to exit the interface or reload the object.

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Electronics are some of the most common items available so far.

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And while they're easy to move horizontally ...

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... it's more difficult to move them vertically, as swiping up or down on the screen changes the object's size.

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We noticed a few other flaws as well. The app had difficulty recognising flat surfaces sometimes.

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And, it didn't seem to be a function of how we held the phone.

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While you can rotate items side to side, you can't rotate them up and down, which can make it more difficult to evaluate items like decorative pillows.

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While we suspect this will be corrected soon, the cropping around some of the items was sloppy.

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Overall, we were impressed by the AR feature. While any new technology will have bugs to work out, the feature made a convincing case for how AR might have a significant impact on our shopping habits one day.

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