IBM showcases augmented reality shopping app

The UK is to be the testbed for a new augmented reality (AR) app that recognises goods in a supermarket simply by their packaging.

Developed in IBM Research's lab in Haifa, Israel, the Augmented Shopping Assistant uses an Android smartphone's camera plus advanced image recognition technology.

Once all the products on a shelf or rack have been recognised, the app retrieves information on them and augments the on-screen picture as requested by the shopper.

For example, it could add numbers to rank them by calorie content or price, pick out the ones that are gluten or lactose-free, or indicate which are on sale or covered by discount coupons. The shopper can also freeze the image and tap it to pull up full details on a product.

The Augmented Shopping Assistant aims to bridge the huge gap that exists today between the average shopper in the store and the wealth of product information available online, said IBM Research project manager, Amnon Ribak.

He stressed that it is all done without scanning barcodes or needing to touch or move the products. "The biggest challenge here is the image recognition it's not fancy AR," he said.

Ribak added that IBM will sell the technology to retailers; they can then offer it to shoppers for download as part of their customer loyalty programme.

He said that the app's first customer is a UK retailer, but stopped short of revealing which one.

Retailers could add other elements to the app, he suggested, such as cross-selling of related products, directions around the store, personalised recommendations or discounts, and links to social networks so people can read and leave comments on products.