Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Amazon mobile app powered by … humans!

Amazon Mobile ScreenshotAmazon has just released an iPhone app. Called Amazon Mobile, the app simply allows users to browse the products on the site. As some commentators have noted, this doesn’t make it much better than visiting the Amazon site online with your phone.

However, the app does have one unique feature. Called Amazon Remembers, it allows users to snap a picture of an item they want. The photo is then uploaded to Amazon, and, if the item can be identified in Amazon's catalogue, users will eventually see a link to purchase the item, both on their phones and on the Amazon home site.

This feature is interesting because Amazon is using people—rather than any kind of fancy image recognition—to identify the items in the photos, presumably using their Mechanical Turk service. It will be interesting to see how well the service works. Perhaps more interesting will be what Amazon does with the usage data the service generates. I wouldn’t be surprised if the company will use the information gathered by its classifiers to develop some kind of automatic image recognition, just as Google used GOOG-411 to build its voice recognition database.

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