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3D smartphone thrusts Amazon into Samsung's playing field

Posted: 16 Apr 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Amazon? smartphone? sensor?

Amazon is gearing up for the smartphone market with a 3D-enabled handset that is set to be released in June, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The report describes a smartphone with four front-facing cameras or sensors that is designed to track the user's gaze. It also features augmented reality with a glasses-free 3D viewing experience. The smartphone is said to be demonstrated to developers in Seattle and San Francisco over the last few weeks.

The auto-stereoscopic 3D screen would serve the on-screen effects based on the user's head position (as detected by the front-facing sensors). You could certainly extrapolate that back-facing stereoscopic cameras would capture the real world in 3D to support the augmented reality features and match the user's gaze with the real-world items attracting the consumer's attention.

Once identified in the real world, these items could be searched and matched in Amazon's online database to come up with price-competitive offers. In retail stores equipped with Bluetooth Smart beacons, the geolocalized offers pushed to the consumer's smartphone could even be used by Amazon to fine-tune its contextual counter-offers.

Sure the smartphone market is already dominated by a handful of players, all trying to leverage their hardware to scrutinise and influence consumers' spending habits. Google's Android OS gives the search engine giant a helping hand on personalized advertising across the majority of smartphones, including the company's Nexus series.

Last year, HTC and Facebook have released a "low-cost" social-network dedicated smartphone that turns the unit into a full-featured Facebook engine, ready to deliver targeted advertising. The "First" as it is called, is said to deliver an immersive Facebook experience with better integrated notifications. It also comes pre-loaded with Instagram for picture and video sharing.

If provided at a very attractive cost, Amazon's smartphone could just be another self-serving tool, a consumer tracking device purposely built to give the merchant a competitive edge in-store as well as online. It may come fully loaded with Amazon's apps and useful shortcuts to the company's retail services.

After all, Amazon has managed to dominate the e-book market by offering its Kindle e-book readers at a very low cost (at just breakeven point or possibly at a small loss according to some market analysts). The Kindle is merely a self-serving platform, a formidable promotional and sales tool for the company's online catalogue of real books and e-books.

Even if Amazon was not directly making profit from selling this new hardware (say if the smartphone was subsidized by the company's online sales), the user-generated data collected and analysed by such a proprietary tool could well compensate the design effort. Especially so if the new augmented reality feature means that 3D items from Amazon's online catalogue can pop-up in front of the users' eyes, right in place of the real thing and at a better price.

A real-time price-war could take place wherever you shop. If the practice ever became mainstream, would physical shops retaliate with special "no augmented reality" policies?

- Julien Happich
??EE Times Europe

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