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A closer look at the new technologies in Amazon's Fire smartphone

Matt Hamblen | June 20, 2014
Firefly, Dynamic Perspective could be the next steps in the evolution of online shopping.

Using the new technologies in its Fire smartphone, Amazon may eventually merge Google's new imaging technology with the Fire's Firefly and Dynamic Perception innovations to empower consumer buying further than before, an IDC analyst predicted.

The result could be the ability for an average consumer to take a picture of a living room with the Fire phone and then quickly assess how a specific brand of 50-in. TV that's sold in the Amazon store would look on the wall of that living room in a 3D-like way.

amazon firephone
Amazon's Fire phone and its recognition app called Firefly. (Photo: Amazon)

The concept would be similar to what Ikea already does with augmented reality technology in its printed furniture catalog. With the AR technology, a customer can see on a smartphone or tablet display how an Ikea table or chair would in the customer's living room.

With Amazon's Fire, the entire Amazon online catalog would be available with just a few clicks to show how products look in a person's home, with easy purchasing and delivery.

"I would say the Fire phone is a blueprint of where Amazon is heading with mobile," said Ramon Llamas, an analyst at IDC who laid out the TV purchase idea. "Google has already brought Project Tango (its experimental imaging technology) to a tablet prototype, which allows you to scan a 3D environment and learn its X, Y and Z dimensions which can be stored on a phone. So if you captured that image and then plugged the 50-inch TV into the room -- bingo! That's a kind of AR and pretty powerful."

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos didn't describe such a scenario in his presentation of the Fire phone on Wednesday, but it is probably within reach of the current Fire phone, with the assistance of some third-party apps, or a future Fire phone, analysts said.

The Fire incorporates several new technologies, including Firefly, which recognizes items in the real world, like books, games and QR codes, and Dynamic Perspective, a 3D-like technology. The question remains whether these new features will be compelling enough to attract buyers.

"I'm not saying these technologies aren't interesting, but is there enough there for consumers to say, 'I need this phone,'?" said Julie Ask, a Forrester analyst.

Getting developers on board

Amazon provided plenty of online documentation for third-party app developers to use for rejiggering iOS and Android apps for the Fire phone. Application development tools are already available for use with both Firefly and Dynamic Perspective in Fire.

The Dynamic Perspective SDK (software development kit) is described by Amazon as a way for developers to access the X, Y and Z coordinates of a Fire user's head, to enable "a whole new class of apps and games."


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