January 18, 2011, 3:49 PM

eBay employs an augmented reality app for classifieds

A new app displays ads on a smartphone’s screen via the live camera view.

Katie Evans

Managing Editor, International Research

Lead Photo

The eBay Classifieds mobile app employs augmented reality technology to display content on a shopper's live camera view display.

EBay sellers who use the online marketplace’s free classifieds service now get another free service to help them sell that couch or motorcycle: augmented reality.

Mobile consumers who download the free augmented reality app from junaio for the iPhone or phones using Google Inc.’s Android operating system are now able to see eBay classifieds listings near their location at any given moment.

Here’s how it works. A consumer downloads the junaio app, opens it on her smartphone, and types ‘eBay Classifieds’ in the search bar. As she walks down a street, the app will use her smartphone’s camera and GPS technology to determine her location and show her brief listings of items or services available in the area that are listed on eBay classifieds. As she walks, the listings pop up on the smartphone screen via the camera view as small blurbs with pictures.

A tap on an ad brings up a larger photo and a complete description, and users can call the seller on the spot by touching the phone number in an ad. Users can point their camera in another direction to see another set of listings and also can filter listings by entering a keyword such as “apartments.” The app does not enable shoppers to click through directly to eBay classifieds, but because eBay Classifieds is free, eBay doesn’t lose any money if a buyer purchases an item without visiting eBay Classifieds. In fact, a big part of the reason eBay launched the service was to help buyers and subsequently boost sales.

“One of the things we’ve been trying to do is to get buyers to the items that they want very quickly,” says Deepak Thomas, general manager of U.S. classifieds and mobile classifieds at eBay. “Traffic is shifting toward mobile. 10% of our traffic comes from mobile apps. And now people want to access content via mobile but they don’t want to type in a lot. Augmented reality lets us do this.”

Augmented reality uses the capabilities of a mobile phone to enhance a presentation, such as using the smartphone’s GPS to identify a consumer’s location and then displaying through the device’s camera views a coupon to a nearby store.

Classifieds sellers do not need to do anything to be listed in the apps, Thomas says. EBay’s open application programming interface, or API, makes it easy to integrate listings with junaio—set-up took less than a month, Thomas says. When a seller lists an item on eBay Classifieds it is nearly instantly added to the junaio app.

This isn’t eBay’s first foray into augmented reality. EBay’s fashion app uses the camera on a smartphone to enable shoppers to visualize themselves in articles of clothing. Just this month it updated that app to enable mobile consumers to virtually try on sunglasses as well.

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