We have seen some interesting uses of smartphone cameras that extend beyond just taking photos. Pokemon Go, for example, became a huge hit and had people all over the world hunting virtual creatures with their smartphones. But one of the more useful scenarios just showed upon Amazon's mobile app. It's a part finder feature to help users find exactly the right type of screw or fastener for their project.
Imagine that you are trying to repair a piece of furniture or other item that with screws, bolts, washers, and whatever else. Maybe you need a specific screw to finish the job, but the ones in your toolbox don't seem to match. What then? Using the part finder feature in Amazon's mobile app, you can scan the object you're trying repair, which it will match against Amazon's product catalog to determine what size screw or fastener is needed.
The nifty tool taps into your smartphone's camera and uses a combination of artificial intelligence and machine vision to make the magic happen. At present, it is capable of identifying over 100 types of fasteners used in thousands (and maybe even millions) of parts, according to Amazon. The company built the feature using technology developed by Parpic, which it acquired two years ago.
Using the part finder feature is pretty easy. You just click on the camera icon in the Amazon shopping app (next to the search bar) and then select the part finder option. It will instruct you to place a penny next to the screw or fastener (or whatever) on a white surface and to line it up in the camera's crosshairs, tilting your phone as necessary.
From there, the object is referenced against Amazon's database. In some cases, the app might ask for some additional information, like whether a screw is a flat head, if it's a wood screw or a self-drilling screw, and so forth.
Identifying screws on your own might not be all that difficult, but for out-of-the-ordinary parts, this new feature could be a huge help. And technically, it doesn't use augmented reality, according to Amazon, but computer vision technology. Call it what you want, this is an awesome feature for handy folk.
The new feature is available now in the iOS app. It's not clear when Amazon will roll it out to Android.