November 18, 2011, 3:44 PM

Amazon.com takes its first step into augmented reality

The e-retailer has unveiled a search and buy app that uses a smartphone’s camera.

Lead Photo

The box containing product details floats atop what can be viewed through the smartphone's camera.

Amazon.com Inc. joins a handful of retailers pioneering augmented reality in mobile commerce. It has released an iPhone app that enables a shopper to search for products and retrieve detailed information without touching his smartphone screen.

A shopper opens the app, dubbed Flow and built by Amazon.com research and development subsidiary A9.com Inc. The app immediately opens the iPhone camera within the app. He points the smartphone at a product’s Universal Product Code, or UPC, bar code and the app recognizes the product and displays detailed product information floating on top of the camera’s field of vision.

From there the shopper can touch the product information box to open up a full screen product page that provides access to more product information, customer reviews, related products and more. He can share the product information through e-mail, Facebook and Twitter, and purchase the product by touching the Buy Now button, which asks him to sign into his Amazon.com account.

“This is our first step towards integrating product search technology with augmented reality,” says 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.”

Flow uses continuous scan technology, which maintains the process of scanning at all times while the app is open, reducing the amount of interaction with the device required by the shopper. The technology was developed by A9.com’s visual search team to identify products and provide related information found on Amazon.com. Flow is available for free in Apple Inc.’s App Store.

Amazon.com is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Mobile Commerce Top 300.

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