Will Another Snap-A-Picture-To-Identify-A-Product App Help?

Another startup vendor, this one called Slyce, is pushing a system where shoppers can shoot pictures of products they want to purchase. The difficulty is that this seems to be the classic solution in search of a problem. Under what circumstances would this help a shopper?

Scenario One: Inside a store. Seems unnecessary and it's a rare product inside a store that is unmarked or doesn't have a barcode or something else that is scannable.

Scenario Two (referenced by the vendor): a shopper is walking outside and sees a billboard or some other advertisement. Again, if the billboard/ad doesn't say what the product is, they need more help than a mobile app can offer.

Scenario Three: The shopper is walking down the streets of Manhattan and spies someone else wearing something that they would like to explore buying. Good news: That is a scenario that would be useful to shoppers. Bad news: This app—like all of the other photo apps we've tested—doesn't help with this scenario, in a practical way.

By the time shoppers think this through enough and grab their phones to shoot the picture, the target has likely moved on. If they haven't, the shopper must get close enough to take the picture of the desired garment. Getting around the creepy element (note to self: Trying this in Manhattan is a terrific way to meet new members of the NYPD), we have to deal with the practical issues. What is the desired item? A necklace? Ring? Blouse? Beret? Scarf? The shopper would have to shoot a photo close enough—and detailed enough—for the app to have a chance to identify it. If the shopper just shoots a picture of a woman walking down the street, how will the app know which item it should try to identify?

This seems to be an app that would work well for things that deliver little to no value (identifying a product in an ad) and that wouldn't work at all where it could be quite useful.

There's another scenario, though. Identifying obscure items in your house. Had this happen a few weeks ago. Something went wrong with the kitchen plumbing. Dismantled the sink and found a part that needed replacing. Given that my knowledge of plumbing consists of "Turn the faucet on and hope for the best," I had no idea what the part was called. I could have stuck the part in a plastic bag and driven it to a local Lowe's or Home Depot and let their people identify it, but if I wanted to buy it online, it would be great if I could take a picture of the part and have the app instantly identify it.

Alas, it won't do that. It's identification is generally focused on popular well-known items that their partners are pushing.

For more:
- See this PaymentsSource story

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