Amazon Glass: The ultimate shopping experience

Amazon Glass could provide the augmented reality version of shopping and redefine the showrooming experience.

With a wink at an object of desire in the retail window, Amazon recognizes the item and presents a special offer to purchase it instantly with another wink or tap. CNET

Amazon is a company with a huge appetite. It first remade the publishing industry and extended it to online shopping services, rivaling Walmart and Costco, scooping up Zappos (shoes), and Quidsi (Diapers.com, Soap.com, Casa.com) along the way. Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos then turned Amazon's technology infrastructure into a massive side business, Amazon Web Services, and is taking on Apple, Netflix, and Google with music, streaming video, and original programming.

Then there is the consumer hardware, led by the Kindle e-readers and tablets. Amazon doesn't release numbers, but Pacific Crest's Chad Bartley estimates Amazon will sell more than 10 million Kindles this year, which pales next to Apple's 19.5 million iPads sold last quarter. But Bezos is nothing if not persistent. Amazon also is reportedly developing a set-top box , which could help the company boost its streaming-video business in the face of competition from Apple, Roku, Boxee, and others.

The latest hardware rumor is Amazon smartphones, including one with a 3D screen that doesn't require special glasses. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, images would look holographic, like they are floating in 3D space, and users could move their eyes to navigate apps and content.

It's not much of a leap to expect that Amazon will dabble in wearable computers. How about Amazon, or Kindle, Glass to rival Google Glass?

Of course, Amazon can tweak its mobile apps to take advantage of Google Glass, but that would no more serve its need to drive more transactions than an ordinary Android phone. Like the Kindle, Amazon would offer its Glass at cost or even for free, to generate more transactions. And, the company could buy online eyewear startup Warby Parker , to get into the eye glass business and sell stylish Amazon Glass frames with prescription lenses for those in need.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos likes to sell hardware at cost and make money when people shop. James Martin/CNET

Amazon Glass could provide the augmented-reality version of shopping and redefine the showrooming experience. For example, a shopper walking down Fifth Avenue in New York might be attracted to a watch in the window of an upscale retail store. With a wink at the watch in the center of the Glass aperture, Amazon recognizes the specific item and presents an Amazon Glass "card," including videos, reviews, and a price that can't be beat, in a 3D virtual window. Another wink, eye movement, or tap, and it will be shipped that day to the location of your choice, for free.

This scenario might induce retailers to ban Amazon Glass from their premises, if it were to become a reality. Then shoppers would have to pull out their old-fashioned smartphones to get more information and competitive pricing.

Given Bezos' fearless quest to dominate nearly every shopping category, apparent need to match whatever Apple or Google does, and formula that the company makes more money when people use its devices, you can count on Amazon developing a shopper-friendly family of wearable computers and apps.

 

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