Business Technology

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Amazon launches Dash: A magic wand that makes shopping as simple as pointing

James Vincent

Published 09/04/2014 | 18:46

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The 6-inch device (on trial in the US) uses voice commands and a bar-code scanner to add items to customer's online shopping lists

E-commerce giant Amazon is continuing in its relentless efforts to make buying things as easy possible with the launch of new gadget: Amazon Dash – a magic wand-like device that lets users buy items without even typing a word.

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The Dash, which is currently being trialled in selected areas of the US as part of the company’s grocery service AmazonFresh, comes with a built-in microphone and a barcode scanner to add items to customers’ shopping lists. Once you’ve got everything you need you just schedule a delivery time.

Although the 6-inch device is actually pretty low-tech (one of its main ‘features’ is a built-in strap so users can hang it up in their kitchen) the Dash fits right into Amazon’s core philosophy of reducing ‘friction’ anywhere they can in the shopping experience.

From ‘1-Click Ordering’ to AmazonPrime, its subscription-based delivery service, the company has always tried to make buying things as easy as possible. In February it even announced that it was working on adding a technology called Flow for its shopping app that allows users to buy something just by taking a picture.

See a book you want or a pair of shoes? Simply load up Flow, snap a picture and Amazon will measure the item’s shape, size and colour to find it online. At least, that’s the idea – like Dash, Flow is far from being fully released to the public.

Although there’s plenty of potential problems with the Dash (in the launch video above a customer orders ‘guitar strings’ – but what type? For which guitar?) there’s not many of them that can’t be solved using Amazon’s prodigious database of information about its customers (if you're a regular shopper then that order of ‘guitar strings’ could immediately select your favourite brand).

While the technology might certainly be a boon for busy parents (or just lazy shoppers) there’s also likely to be some worries that Amazon are simply encouraging an excessively consumerist culture.

Speaking to tech site Recode, Amazon’s director of mobile shopping Paul Cousineau said that the dream was for users to be able to “go from ‘I want that’ to ‘I bought that’ in 30 seconds or 10 seconds”. Whether or not shoppers want exactly the same remains to be seen.

Independent News Service

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