Amazon’s AR Tool is a useful way to see products before you buy them

We’ve all returned Amazon products because they weren’t what we expected. They were either the wrong right size, ugly in person, or just through off your room’s feng shui. Whatever the case, sending them back can be a real hassle.

You may not have to worry about that anymore now that Amazon lets you see products in your home before you buy them. The online giant released a new augmented reality tool on iOS dubbed “AR View.” Based on Apple’s new ARKit developer kit, the feature creates digital versions of Amazon products that you can place wherever you’d like in the real world.

I spent an afternoon testing it out, and I had a pretty good time in the process, despite running into plenty of bugs.

Setting up Amazon’s AR View

You’ll need an iPhone 6S or newer running any version of iOS 11. To use the feature, go to the App Store and download the main “Amazon” app (the one with the shopping cart). Open it up and click on the camera next to the search bar. You’ll see a menu floating on top of your camera interface. Choose “AR view.”

amazon app ar view Phillip Tracy

On the next screen, you’ll see Amazon products organized into categories: top picks, living room, home decor, bedroom, kitchen, electronics, and toys and games. Amazon claims there are “thousands of items” to choose from. That isn’t the case, however, at least at launch. The range of products right now is limited and random.

There are half a dozen instant cameras but no televisions. There’s a waffle maker but no major kitchen appliances. And as of this review, there are only three different floor lamps—not quite the selection one would expect from the world’s largest online retailer.

There is also stuff like this:

amazon ar view test middle finger Phillip Tracy

Anyway, it’s at this point when I started noticing bugs. After selecting a product, the app asks you to point your camera on a surface where it can place your item. Frustratingly, it kept giving me an error message saying my shiny kitchen counter wasn’t a surface.

amazon ar view error surface Phillip Tracy

To its credit, it consistently fixed itself after a few seconds and didn’t have any problem tracking new surfaces as I moved the camera around my apartment.

Digital shopping on Amazon

The quality of the digital representations is decent. They don’t seem quite as detailed as those in Ikea’s AR app, but I still got a good idea of how they’d look in my living space. I also didn’t have any problems moving them around or rotating them 360-degrees.

My biggest visual gripe is the strange white outline around some products, as though they were cut from a piece of paper. It makes this hamburger pillow look like a kid’s drawing.

Phillip Tracy

I need this, minus the white outline.

Like Ikea Place, Amazon’s AR app struggled to keep things in proportion. For example, when I dropped an Amazon Alexa near this Harmon Kardon Invoke, its size seemed about right.

Phillip Tracy

The proportions in the left image are much closer than those on the right.

But things got out of whack when I moved it around. This didn’t happen every time; other items seemed to grow and shrink appropriately when I dragged them closer or further away. Still, I wouldn’t count on this feature as a measuring tool.

amazon app ar view totoro Phillip Tracy

Yes, Amazon gets big points for this Totoro.

There were other small bugs I came across, but nothing that prevented me from enjoying the app. Yes, despite my complaints, I had fun using Amazon’s new AR tool and would recommend it to anyone wondering how a product looks before they buy it.

Just don’t be surprised when you return an item because it wasn’t the size you were expecting.

Need more Amazon help? Here’s what you need to know about Amazon Alexa, Amazon Prime Pantry, how to sell on Amazon, Amazon Prime membership and if it’s really worth it.

Phillip Tracy

Phillip Tracy

Phillip Tracy is a former technology staff writer at the Daily Dot. He's an expert on smartphones, social media trends, and gadgets. He previously reported on IoT and telecom for RCR Wireless News and contributed to NewBay Media magazine. He now writes for Laptop magazine.