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Amazon iPhone app update lets it ‘see’ real world stuff you want to buy

Amazon wants you to buy stuff, as much stuff as possible. It’s that simple. It makes sense then that it would include a feature in the latest update to its iPhone app that uses image recognition to find stuff it thinks you want to buy. It’s scary, but it makes sense.

The feature, called Flow, is a reworked version of a feature that already existed on the ecommerce giant’s app. In its previous incarnation it was called Snap It and, as Time’s Techland blog notes only allowed you to upload photos books, CDs, DVDs and video games.

Flow is a lot more instantaneous and can reportedly identify objects on the fly as well as allowing you to keep pointing it objects you might want to buy.

The basic technology behind the update is similar to that used in Goggles option on Google’s various mobile search apps.

Amazon App Flow Feature Demo from Gizmodo on Vimeo.

Speaking to Gizmodo, Amazon’s VP of shopping Sam Hall said that the goal is to make everything Amazon sells searchable in this way. Given the vast array of things it sells though, that could take some time.

Early reviews suggest that for now it works best for objects in their packaging and that while it recognises logos, it does occasionally place them with the wrong product.

Hall also says that the idea behind Flow isn’t so much about changing people’s retail experience as it is about making it easier for them replenish goods they use on a regular basis. So you could, for instance, point at your toothbrush, or eggs and milk and replenish them as you remember that you need more.

If the groceries idea sounds a little bit outlandish, remember that Amazon recently entered the online groceries business and it’ll be looking for every bit of competitive edge it can get in the space.

Author | Stuart Thomas

Stuart Thomas
Stuart is the editor-in-chief of Engage Me Online. After pursuing an MA in South African literature, he spent five years reporting on the global technology scene. Intrigued by the intersection of technology and work, he joined Engage Me as the editor-in-chief. He is a passionate runner, and recently ran... More

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