It’s well-known that Google have been working on their augmented reality Google Glass product for a few years now. What started off as Google Goggles, with their ability to recognise objects being rather limited, has now morphed in to a more sophisticated product where users will be able to search and browse the internet with AR glasses.
The work is still being carried out and it’s not clear when they will be available for general purchase. It the meantime however retailers are also carrying out their own R&D in to how augmented reality can improve consumer experience and therefore sales. The latest improvement is in object recognition – negating the need for consumers to have to carry out a voice search query or type them out.
Leading the way of the pack is Amazon and its Flow app – all that’s required is to scan a product with a device viewfinder and Flow will return product information, reviews and the option to add to their shopping cart. It has been around as a stand-alone app since mid-2012 however it’s recently been integrated in to the main Amazon app in order that they can offer the consumer a fully integrated service – the result of which looks to be impressive.
Within the Amazon’s app the user is able to search for a product as normal, scan its barcode to search or use the viewfinder of their device for Flow to recognise it. The results for Flow only take only a matter of seconds to appear, making shopping easy, quick and extremely simple – all attributes desirable within today’s fast-paced society.
Rival to Amazon, eBay, is not quite there in terms of offering a direct match yet. The most similar product they have to rival Flow is eBay Red Laser, which returns products based on scanning the barcode or QR code. At the moment it does not have visual recognition in the same way as Amazon Flow however it’s extremely likely that something similar will be in the works. In which case, for now at least anyway, it looks like the battle for AR supremacy is with retailers, as opposed to search engines ie. Google.
It’s easy to see how the likes of Amazon and eBay will make use of visual search and the straightforward way in which they will be able to monetise it. For Google the benefits are less clear, although what’s certain is they will be investing their vast resources in to producing a top-of-the-range product aimed at improving user experience.
Ultimately, for whatever its purpose or from which industry, this extension of search – from typed, to typed and voice queries, to also include visual search will have an impact not only on the way that users interact with the web but for SEO and SEM as well. How webmasters will need to structure web pages will need to take in to account this new form of search, the ramifications for which are not yet clear.
For the end user it heralds yet more technological advancement and should serve to make surfing online an even easier and more varied experience.