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Amazon’s new 3-D feature is augmented reality that people might actually use

AR View lets online shoppers see how a product will look in their homes.

A screenshot image of a women holding a phone to view an AR version of a slow-cooker before she buys the item on Amazon’s mobile app. Amazon
Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Augmented reality is one of the tech buzzwords of the day, but how many of the current use cases are anything more than gimmicky?

Here’s one: Amazon on Wednesday unveiled an augmented reality feature in its iOS shopping app that shows customers a 3-D rendering of how a given product will look in their home or workspace before they order it.

Called AR View, the feature is activated by clicking on the camera icon in the Amazon app and selecting from thousands of products across categories like furniture, kitchen ware and home decor. (You would think customers will eventually have the option to select AR View from an individual product page as Amazon builds its catalogue of digital imagery needed to make this work.)

A chair sold on Amazon being viewed through the company’s new augmented reality feature
A chair sold on Amazon being viewed through the company’s new augmented reality feature

The feature — built using Apple’s ARKit technology — is clearly in its infancy: The virtual products were a bit jumpy on my phone’s screen and the picture definition and coloring won’t have you confusing the images for the real thing.

But augmented reality gives you a good sense of a product’s dimensions and a decent idea of its color. And that will in some cases be enough to push an undecided shopper into completing a purchase online they otherwise wouldn’t have. At Amazon’s scale, even a slight increase in a purchase conversion rate leads to real revenue gains.

Amazon’s AR feature follows similar launches from other retailers like Ikea, Wayfair and Houzz. But none of these sport the U.S.’s most popular shopping app for iOS like Amazon does. If there’s an app that has the potential to push AR into the mainstream of online shopping, it’s Amazon’s.

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