Amazon.com Inc. recently updated its iPhone app with a cool new feature that lets user find items in the online store by simply holding them in front of the phone’s camera. The feature is called “Flow” and is designed to expedite searching for products rather than typing a name or scanning a bar code.
To access Flow, users must have the latest Amazon app update. They must then select the search bar toward the top of the screen followed by selecting the “Flow” option. The app will turn on the iPhone camera and begin scanning anything in front of it. It is kind of cool how it dynamically frames the object with red dots, sort of how Terminators scan targets for elimination!
I tested this new feature and it does make searching for certain items a lot faster. After recognizing products, the app saves the information in the user’s search history. From there, the user can go to each item and add it to the cart. Scanning books is nearly always successful, although old, dogeared books might not be recognized. The app did not always recognize other items, however, and at other times the app identified a similar but incorrect item. For example, it mistook a coffee cup for a shot glass.
It appears the machine learning classifier algorithm, possibly a neural net, may need a big more training. Hopefully Amazon is working to refine the app’s predictive capabilities. But this is a great step forward in bringing state-of-the-art data science to enhance a very popular consumer application.
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