Amazon adds an AR shopping feature to its iOS app

Amazon today is introducing a new feature called AR View that lets customers visualize online products in their own living space, using their smartphone camera. Launched today in the Amazon app for iOS devices, AR View offers the ability to view thousands of products for the home or office – including furniture, electronics, toys, games, home décor and more – in augmented reality.

The retailer before has dabbled with using AR technology in its app, but only in the form of AR stickers. These “shoppable stickers” were not that useful, as they represented a limited product set and were designed in an almost cartoonish way with big white borders that made them seem more like real stickers.

But many other retailers have pressed forward with AR implementations, especially for shopping furniture – something it’s hard to buy online, as it’s difficult to imagine if the item will really look right in your home. Often, people have preferred to shop furniture in retailers’ showrooms where they can see it placed inside finished rooms, and alongside other decorative items like lamps and rugs.

Augmented reality has the potential to change that behavior, as it allows consumers to imagine items not just in a finished room, but in their own room.

A number of retailers have recently added AR shopping features to their websites and apps, including Target, Wayfair, and IKEA.

Like IKEA’s implementation, Amazon’s new AR View feature takes advantage of Apple’s ARKit – software that allows third-party developers to more easily add AR functionality to their mobile apps. For this reason, AR View in the Amazon app will only work on the iPhone 6S or higher, on devices running Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 11.

To try the feature, you’ll first tap on the camera icon in the Amazon app – the same one you press today to scan a barcode or perform a visual search. You can then choose “AR View” from the menu that appears. (It seems AR View has not replaced the AR stickers, which are still available.)

In the screen that appears, you can swipe through a top menu to choose from various categories, like “living room,” “home décor,” “bedroom,” “kitchen,” “electronics,” and “toys and games.” There’s even a “top picks” section which currently features Echo devices, among other things.

It’s not clear how useful some of these product selections are – after all, do you really need to visualize the yellow toy truck or Echo Dot before purchasing? But in the case of larger items, like furniture or kitchen appliances that sit on countertops, it could be more helpful.

In the AR View screen, you can also move and rotate the items to see them in a full 360-degree view, notes Amazon.

The addition of AR View is rolling out now to iOS devices, and was announced alongside news of Amazon’s Black Friday Deals Store launch.

In the announcement, the retailer highlighted that it now has a number of ways to shop Amazon beyond AR, including from its curated stream at Interesting Finds, via real-world “Treasure Trucks” in cities, through brick-and-mortar Amazon Books stores, via its listsguides, and handmade shop, both online and on mobile.