Bixby Shopping System Lets Users Snap a Pic to Make a Purchase

Users of Samsung’s newest flagship smartphones can now buy products by pointing their phones at them and snapping a picture.

The functionality, available on the Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones, is enabled through a new app called Bixby Shopping. The system is designed to use machine vision to identify a given product through the phone’s camera, find it on the website of one of Samsung’s merchant partners, and direct users to that site to make the purchase using Samsung Pay, its mobile payments app.

It’s the latest example of Samsung’s ambition to make its Bixby AI assistant considerably smarter than it was at its launch last year. To that end, Samsung is emulating Google’s embrace of machine vision, with the latter having developed a system called Google Lens that is designed to identify a wide range of everyday objects seen through its Pixel 2 smartphone camera, just to offer users a little more information about, for example, a tourist landmark or a Charlie Parker record. For Samsung’s part, it’s putting its Bixby Vision system to a perhaps more practical use in Bixby Shopping.

Of course, the real test of the system will be whether S9 owners find it useful. It isn’t yet clear how effective the new system is at actually linking everyday products to online merchants, and if it only ends up working with one in every five or 10 products scanned, lots of users might just not bother with it. But as Samsung continues to improve the AI of Bixby, there’s a possibility that this will become the new way that many people shop.