Never mind the Yakov Smirnoff reference, this story isn’t about the 1980’s, it’s about the future… a future in which all you have to do is find a product you like at the store, show it to your phone and presto – coupons!

IBM recently announced the development of what it calls an “augmented reality mobility shopping app”. In English, that would be a smartphone application that allows you to get personalized product information, reviews, recommendations and coupons while doing your grocery shopping.

The prototype works like this: point your phone’s camera at a product, the app recognizes it, and information pops up on your screen: ingredients you might be allergic to, nutrition information, the price, and so on. You know, the kind of stuff you could find out if you actually picked up the product and looked at it instead of waving your phone at it.


But there’s more: if you’re overwhelmed at your store’s cereal selection and just can’t decide what to buy, tell the app what you’re looking for – something low in sugar, or high in fiber, or highly recommended, or on sale – then pan your phone across the shelves until it “finds” something that meets you needs. And maybe a coupon offer will pop up on your screen, too.

IBM’s research finds that 19% of American consumers already use their smartphones while shopping in brick-and-mortar stores, and many of them want the in-person shopping experience to be more like online shopping. So smartphones could help you decide, when you want to ensure you’re getting the best deal, the most popular product, or just don’t want to make up your own mind.

Because “in America, you tell your gadgets what to do. In future, gadgets tell you!”

Image source: Photo Illustration/Jon Simon/Feature Photo Service for IBM

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