As if Amazon didn't already make it easier to buy things from home than in a store, the company has now given shoppers yet another reason to avoid the holiday rush with an ARKit update to its iPhone app.
While Amazon may have lagged behind IKEA in arriving to the ARKit party, the company's timing couldn't be better, now that its Black Friday push has officially begun. Amazon's AR feature allows customers to visualize not only furniture and home decor, like IKEA Place, but also electronics, kitchen appliances, toys, and games.
The new AR view feature is embedded in the Amazon app's camera. From there, users can pick from a catalog of compatible items to place in their physical environment. After the ARKit ritual of scanning for a horizontal surface, users tap the screen and Amazon "unboxes" the item in front of them.
The virtual products can be rotated and moved around on the screen. Once the item is in place, users can capture a photo but, after the photo is snapped, users can still move the item within the scene before sharing. (Refreshingly, Amazon forces users into landscape mode to view and capture the items. Thanks, Amazon!)
Once users are done evaluating the items, they can click the "more" button to go to its store page for ordering.
From my limited testing, it appears Amazon uses both 3D models from CAD files as well as 3D scans. The 3D models have an animated appearance, while the scanned items have a photographed and/or clipped appearance, which can make the items stick out like a sore thumb.
The feature works as one would expect using ARKit, with fairly reliable tracking. But I did find some buggy behavior. The app had trouble identifying white surfaces in low-light conditions, something I haven't encountered with ARKit apps previously. In another case, I found the scale of items to be inaccurate compared to the execution of the IKEA Place app. I placed a chair next to my desk twice but, in the second instance, it was rendered far too large. Sometimes the app loses track of the item's position. For example, one item was placed on a desk and, after I put the phone down, I returned to find it floating in space.
The online retailer's announcement cites "thousands" of items that can be viewed in AR. By my count, there are at least 403 products across all categories in the AR view section, not counting the items that appear in multiple categories. However, I imagine this will increase over time.
Amazon is already the 900-pound gorilla in retail. Adding an AR viewing feature to its app just adds more muscle to its existing brawn, helping Amazon snag some of the laggards who need to "see" an item before they buy.
Screenshots and GIFs by Tommy Palladino/Next Reality