Amazon’s Flow Plans to Enhance Shopping by Scanning Objects

Amazon’s newest app feature will make it even easier to never have to leave your home to purchase media, gifts and common household goods. The new feature, “Flow,” will soon be available in Amazon’s shopping app for iOS, and it will allow users to simply scan any object with their iPhone camera and place an order for that specific product. The app does not require barcodes to work — just a clear image — and it takes less than 30 seconds to place an order.

According to Wired, Flow recognizes objects based on their shape, size, color, general appearance, and any text that might be on it. “Hold your iPhone up to a row of items on your shelf or counter, and within seconds of ‘seeing’ it with the iPhone’s camera, every recognizable item is placed in [a] queue that can be added to your Amazon cart,” the article explains.

To indicate that it’s working, “tiny sparkling blue stars” appear over the items on your phone. Once it’s found the object you’ve scanned in its inventory, it displays your results and from there makes it easy to hit “buy.”

One minor glitch in the system currently is that portions for things like grocery items sometimes miss the mark. Wired contributor Roberto Baldwin said after scanning a five-ounce bottle of Tabasco sauce, his results mistakenly displayed a 128-ounce bottle instead.

“Our vision for this is to open the app and recognize anything in the world,” explained Sam Hall, Amazon’s vice president of mobile. “We’re not there yet, and to get there we’re going to continually get better and innovate.”

The article notes that this new development adds to Amazon’s threat of brick-and-mortar stores. A consumer could in theory walk into a store, scan various objects for sale, find cheaper alternatives on Amazon and place an order — and leave the store without buying anything.

“Unsurprisingly, physical stores are not fans of this,” the article notes.