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Amazon unveils Firefly, a new camera feature to help you buy anything and everything

During the launch of Amazon’s Fire Phone, the company unveiled a new feature that seems designed for instant gratification, whether it involves buying impulsively or conducting on-the-fly research. According to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the new feature, called Firefly, uses the phone’s camera to recognize things like books, DVDs, movies, QR codes, phone numbers, bar codes, CDs, and games. Once the phone identifies the item, it then makes a search within the Amazon database.

This means that if you find a book or a DVD that you like, you won’t need to search for it in the Amazon website or app. While demoing the app, Bezos scanned a number of products like nut bars and detergents. Once an item is included in the scanned list, tapping the item will show an action box where the product can be purchased.    

Firefly is more than an enabler for impulsive shoppers, though. Bezos said that the new feature can recognize more than 100 million items. Aside from physical objects, the phone can also recognize phone numbers and email addresses in street signs. The feature is said to use “semantic boosting” to take out irrelevant details. This is said to boost the chances of a correct reading when the surface has glare or wrinkles. 

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Firefly also provides the phone with a number of impressive party tricks. Similar to Shazam, the feature can recognize songs. Once it does, it opens a page in iHeartRadio and Amazon Music where you can buy the song or purchase a concert ticket from Stubhub. The phone has the same recognition capability for movies, TV shows and art. Bezos demonstrated this feature by playing an episode of Game of Thrones. Aside from showing the Amazon product link, Firefly also displayed a page that contained the IMDB records of the actors in the scene, which is convenient if you’re into doing on-the-fly research while watching shows. Bezos also scanned two paintings: Sergei Osipov’s Cornflowers and Vittore Carpaccio’s Man with Red Hat. This pulled up the Wikipedia page for both paintings.  

The app seems designed to turn the whole world into your new supermarket. While the new feature’s cool tricks will instantly make it an object of curiosity, it’s real-world usefulness may be enough to sustain interest.