IBM app marries augmented reality, comparison shopping

Big Blue is testing an app that identifies products on store shelves then lets customers sort them by price -- or lets the retailer steer purchasing with coupons.

Amnon Rebak, an IBM Research staff member from Haifa, Israel, shows the idea behind the company's technology for identifying items for sale then letting customers sort through them.
Amnon Rebak, an IBM Research staff member from Haifa, Israel, shows the idea behind the company's technology for identifying items for sale then letting customers sort through them. Stephen Shankland/CNET

HANOVER, Germany--IBM showed off technology today designed to let people use their smartphones to take command of their real-world shopping.

Big Blue showed an app idea from IBM Research in Haifa, Israel, that uses image recognition to identify products on store shelves, then lets people sort those products by attributes such as price and nutrition information. A customer could select only gluten-free products, pick food that's from nearby, or filter electronic gadgets by operating system.

"The same experience people expect online is available in the store," said Amnon Rebak, a research staff member on the project, at the CeBIT show here.

And of course, customers also can sort by items that are on sale or that have coupons. It's not hard to imagine a retailer wanting to use the app to steer customers where it wants them to go.

Although the app Rebak showed was preloaded with information and didn't do any image detection, it's moved at least partway out of the idea stage: IBM is testing the technology at an undisclosed U.K. retailer.

"It's hopeful we will be available with retailers in the U.S.," he added.

The app taps into the augmented-reality technology by overlaying product information on the smartphone screen.

IBM's augmented-reality app uses image recognition to classify items for sale then lets people find out details such as nutrition information and sort them by parameters such as price.
IBM's augmented-reality app uses image recognition to classify items for sale then lets people find out details such as nutrition information and sort them by parameters such as price. Stephen Shankland/CNET
 

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