Walmart deploys augmented reality to improve barcode scanner

Walmart shoppers can now use augmented reality (AR) thanks to the launch of a new tool for iOS – as the company says it wanted to do ‘so much more’ with its current mobile app barcode scanner.

The retailer has given a shot to augmented reality and has launched a new AR scanning tool in its iPhone application which will help customers with product comparisons. This AR scanner can be panned across store shelves, offering details on pricing and customer ratings beneath the products it sees.

It was first developed by at an internal Walmart hackathon using Apple’s ARKit tool. At the time, their idea was to create a scanning experience that worked faster and felt faster when used by customers. They also wanted to build a scanner that offered more than just price comparisons.

The AR scanner was designed to anchor dots to what customers have scanned, but uses smaller dots instead of anchoring the entire content to the product itself to overcome the problems that could occur when multiple items are scanned together in a close space.

Tim Sears, senior engineering manager at Walmart Labs, wrote in a Medium post that the ‘magic’ of augmented reality was that there was no learning curve. “We designed the AR Scanner to anchor dots to what you’ve scanned in reality,” wrote Sears. “As you pan your phone between products you’ve already scanned, the bottom product tile updates based on which anchor you’re pointing it.

“The result is something that feels like an extension of an interaction you already do today.”

The AR Scanner is in the latest version of the Walmart iOS app, and works on iPhones that run at least iOS 11.3.

Regular readers of this publication will be aware as to Walmart’s previous initiatives in this area. Walmart’s technology incubator, Store No 8, announced in February that it had purchased VR start-up Spatialand, a software platform that helps developers create virtual experiences. The acquisition was part of the retail giant’s strategy to bring VR experiences to its stores.

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