IBM testing augmented reality shopping app

Big Blue wants to help customers with their weekly shop and boost sales for retailers.

IBM augmented reality

IBM is testing an augmented reality application that will provide customers with information and recommendations while carrying out their weekly shop.

The prototype is being developed by IBM's Research lab in Haifa, Israel. When a smartphone or tablet with a camera is pointed at some merchandise, the product will be recognised based on its shape, colour and packaging using IBM's Smarter Commerce software.

IBM expects the app to not only benefit customers, but drive business for retailers by increasing the amount of interaction while they shop.

The product will be displayed on screen with information such as ingredients, customer rating and price superimposed over the top.

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Users will be able to download the app to their mobile when walking into a supermarket. They will be required to register once and set up preferences. For example, they can state if they want cereal with low-sugar, kosher food or want to avoid any products with lactose.

Once preferences have been selected, a user can browse an aisle and the app will pinpoint food which meets the selected criteria.

Users can also grant permissions to social networks such as Facebook. This means, if a friend has commented on a product, it will be displayed on screen.

IBM expects the app to not only benefit customers, but drive business for retailers by increasing the amount of interaction while they shop. The app is expected to boost sales by allowing retailers to cross-sell and entice purchases with discounts, the firm said.

"In the age of social media, consumer expectations are soaring and people want information and advice about the products they're going to buy," said Sima Nadler, retail lead at IBM Research.

"By closing the gap between the online and in-store shopping experience, marketers can appeal to the individual needs of consumers and keep them coming back."

Up until now, augmented reality has had limited uses in the real-world, and the ability to use the technology for weekly shopping could kick-start widespread adoption.

IBM has not giving any information on when the app will be available, only noting that trials are being carried out in US retailers.

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