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Amazon’s app can ID items using your device’s camera

Have you ever needed to find more of a random part, like a washer, bolt or screw, but had no idea where to find the right one? It can be quite frustrating, and require multiple trips to a home improvement store before finally tracking it down.

None of us probably consider buying whatever part we were looking for on Amazon, especially if we’re not entirely sure of what it is we need. Yet we buy so much else on the site, so the ability to get a good deal online would certainly be attractive.

Amazon understands that and, in an effort to make it easier to hunt for parts on their site, they have introduced “Part Finder.”

What is Part Finder, you ask?

Part Finder is a new feature currently available only for iOS that uses a device’s camera to identify the part and then send you to matching items found on Amazon. The technology behind it was developed by Partpic, which Amazon acquired in 2016.

So far it is capable of identifying more than 100 types of fasteners, which Amazon says represents possibly millions of parts. The feature has been around for a couple of weeks now, but Amazon did not do much to highlight or promote its launch.

The Part Finder adds to something the Amazon app already had, which was the ability to identify products the camera lens was pointed at. Searchability through image recognition was already part of the app for both iOS and Android, and this just adds to it.

How does it work?

You may not have noticed it before, but if you open the Amazon app and look toward the top of the page, to the right of the search box, is the image of a camera. Tap on it and if it is the first time, the next screen will go into detail about what the feature can do.

After you get through the brief explanation, you will see six icons representing things you can scan. The newest one — Part Finder — is in the lower-right and represented by a screw. Tap on that and you will see instructions on how to position the item and camera in order to get the best results.

There is a separate set of instructions if you are using the part finder, but the general theme is the same. You position whatever it is you are trying to scan in a certain way and, once it’s ready, you tap on the “start” button and let the app go to work.

Be it a random part or, as is the case here, a mouse, the app should then display the exact item for sale on Amazon. If not the exact same, then something comparable for you to purchase.

You can’t expect the feature to be perfect, but it’s pretty impressive. It’s also not a great idea if you know exactly what you are looking for, since you could more quickly just search for it by name.

But if you don’t know what something is or what it’s called, letting your device’s camera do the work for you is not a bad way to go.

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