A closer look at the new technologies in Amazon's Fire smartphone

Firefly, Dynamic Perspective could be the next steps in the evolution of online shopping

By leveraging the Fire smartphone's Firefly and Dynamic Perspective technologies, Amazon could help online buying evolve in a variety of new directions, an IDC analyst predicted.

The result could be the ability for an average consumer to take a picture of a living room with the Fire phone and then quickly assess how a specific model of 50-in. TV that's sold on Amazon.com would look on the wall of that living room in a 3D-like way.

Amazon's Fire phone
Amazon's Fire phone. (Photo: Amazon)

The concept would be similar to what Ikea already does with augmented reality technology in its printed furniture catalog. With the AR technology, a shopper can see on a smartphone or tablet display how an Ikea table or chair would in his or her living room.

With Amazon's Fire, the entire Amazon online catalog would be available with just a few clicks to show how products look in a person's home, with easy purchasing and delivery.

"I would say the Fire phone is a blueprint of where Amazon is heading with mobile," said IDC analyst Ramon Llamas, who laid out the idea of using the phone to assess a planned TV purchase.

"Google has already brought Project Tango to a tablet prototype," he noted, referring to the search giant's experimental imaging technology. Tango would enable a user "to scan a 3D environment and learn its X, Y and Z dimensions, which [could then] be stored on a phone," Llamas explained. "So if you captured that image and then plugged the 50-in. TV into the room -- bingo! That's a kind of AR and pretty powerful."

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos didn't describe such a scenario in his presentation of the Fire phone on Wednesday, but that kind of functionality is probably within reach of the current Fire phone, with the assistance of some third-party apps, or a future Fire phone, analysts said.

The Fire incorporates several new technologies, including Firefly, which recognizes items in the real world, like books, games and QR codes, and Dynamic Perspective, a 3D-like technology. But it's unclear whether these new features will be compelling enough to convince people to buy Amazon's phone.

"I'm not saying these technologies aren't interesting, but is there enough there for consumers to say, 'I need this phone?'" said Julie Ask, a Forrester analyst.

Getting developers on board

Amazon provided plenty of online documentation to help third-party app developers rejigger iOS and Android apps for the Fire phone. Application development tools are already available for use with both Firefly and Dynamic Perspective in Fire.

The Dynamic Perspective SDK (software development kit) is described by Amazon as a way for developers to access the X, Y and Z coordinates of a Fire user's head, to enable "a whole new class of apps and games."

The hardware behind Dynamic Perspective incorporates four low-power cameras in the corners of Fire's display, each equipped with an infrared LED and tied to a dedicated processor and real-time vision software. It promises to give users the ability to, for example, see closeup front and back views of a dress in Amazon's new Shopping app for Fire.

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