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article imageAmazon could let you try on watches, clothes in augmented reality

By James Walker     Jul 26, 2017 in Technology
Amazon is investigating how it could use augmented reality technology to let you "try on" clothes and accessories before you buy. A new patent filed by the company details how a phone app would let you virtually "wear" items from Amazon's product pages.
GeekWire reports the patent is based on an application originally made in 2013. It was published today and describes how a smartphone-based augmented reality system could extend the online shopping experience.
Amazon's idea uses your smartphone camera and a three-dimensional depth sensor to scan your body and work out its dimensions. If you want to try on a watch, you'd point your phone at your wrist. The app would overlay a 3D representation of the watch on the camera viewfinder, creating an effect similar to the masks and effects common to messaging apps. You could also use the feature to try on shoes, glasses, jewellery and even clothes.
In its patent filing, Amazon reveals its main motivation for developing the technology. The company noted that people tend to buy items and then immediately return them if they're not satisfied. This forces the retailer and the customer to endure delays, extra costs and logistical inefficiencies.
"Traditionally, customers buying [a] physical item have relied on one or more pictures of the item to attempt to visualize how the physical item would look in use," the filing reads. "However, many users may have difficulty judging the appearance of the item as worn or used, based on the picture… by providing the augmented image, the user may be better able to visualize the appearance, fit, and so forth, of the virtual item."
The technology is one of several different ideas Amazon is known to be exploring. The company has taken a strong interest in augmented reality. It's particularly focusing on mobile-based solutions that reflect where most people tend to shop. Amazon hopes to give shoppers a better view of what they're buying by moving beyond 2D photos to "try at home" digital experiences.
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Earlier this year, the New York Times reported that Amazon's also looking at setting up furniture stores that use augmented reality. The company is considering setting up its own chain of physical retail locations. They'd let you use augmented reality to see how items would look in your own home. Amazon devices such as its Echo smart speaker family would also be available.
Besides augmented reality, Amazon's also increasingly promoting the use of "voice shopping." On Prime Day, the company gave Alexa users exclusive deals and discounts if they ordered items using the digital assistant. This approach appears to head in the opposite direction to augmented reality though, offering less information on products instead of more.
It's worth remembering the tech described in the patent filing could be just a concept that Amazon's not actively developing. Even if it is in the pipeline, most smartphones don't yet have the hardware to work out your location in 3D space. Amazon's looking beyond the curve, aiming to be the first to the next big thing in digital retail.
More about Amazon, Shopping, Retail, digital transformation, Mobile
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