Augmented reality and shopping: Testing Amazon’s new virtual shoes feature

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(Amazon Images)

Amazon is making it easier to “try before you buy” — virtually, at least.

The tech giant on Thursday launched a new try-on feature within its iOS app that uses augmented reality to show shoppers how shoes look on their feet.

We just gave it a quick test run and it was pretty slick. There’s a “Virtual Try-On” button below product images for shoes that have the functionality; brands such as New Balance, Adidas, Lacoste, and others are included at launch.

Customers point the smartphone camera to their feet and swipe through various colors of the same style. You can move the camera around to see different angles of the virtual shoes on your feet, and take photos to save on your phone or share on social media.

Trying on some virtual New Balance sneakers.

It’s a nice feature, for sure, and pairs well with Amazon’s Prime Wardrobe service. But it doesn’t solve a key problem with buying shoes online — knowing how they actually fit and feel on your feet. We might need 3D printing or some other futuristic technology for that.

This is the latest example of companies using augmented reality to enhance the online shopping experience. Back in 2017 Amazon rolled out a similar feature for seeing how furniture might look in your room.

Walmart and IKEA are also using augmented reality or other “virtual try-on” technologies, while software giants such as Pinterest and Snapchat have released their own AR tools for virtual shopping.

Amazon last year became the country’s largest apparel retailer, surpassing Walmart. Last month it debuted its first brick-and-mortar apparel store in the Los Angeles area.

Amazon’s other high-tech shopping forays include “Outfit Picker,” which launched in 2017, and a personal styling service that debuted in 2019. The company also built fashion advice features for its Echo Look device that was discontinued in 2020.

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