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Amazon Flow: Try Firefly on your existing phone (sort of)

Leah Yamshon and Susie Ochs | June 23, 2014
You can access some of Firefly's awesome recognition power on your own phone, right now, a month before the Fire Phone's launch.

The only item to stump it was a still-wrapped Moleskine notebook, so I resorted to scanning its barcode. Flow then directed me to Moleskine's website instead of Amazon, even though Amazon sells Moleskine notebooks. That was a little odd.

Not everything will Flow
As for the unpackaged products, it had a little trouble. As in, it couldn't identify anything. To its credit, Flow isn't designed to decode naked items, but it appears that Firefly will be able to, to some extent. 

Flow can recognize phone numbers, but presents a more limited scope of options for what you can do with it. When scanning a business card, for example, it recognizes the phone number, and gives you the options of dialing, editing, or sharing the number with another app: Messages, Mail, Facebook, or Twitter. There's no way to save that number in your phone's contact list directly from Flow, but you can copy the number and paste it into a new contact entry. How primitive.

It also doesn't store any other information besides the number: When scrolling through your list of items you've scanned, the only thing saved is the number itself--not a picture of the business card, just a phone number. Not helpful if you didn't save that information elsewhere. Firefly, by contrast, can show you the original photo if you need help jogging your memory about where you got that phone number.

Another thing that Flow struggles with is handwriting. If the phone number, email address, or website you're trying to scan is typed, it has no trouble picking it up. If it's handwritten, however, that's another story. A scan of "TechHive.com" in my--ahem--perfectly-legible handwriting led me to "chhivc.com." Nailed it.

So while Firefly on the Fire Phone will do more than Flow (identifying music and TV shows, for starters, and telling you more about famous works of art), Flow is a good demo of how quickly and accurately Firefly can find identify thousands of products. Once the Fire Phone launches on July 25, it'll be fun to see the further evolution of this technology in the hands of third-party app developers. Perhaps "Will it Firefly?" will become the new "Will it blend?"

 

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