Amazon's AR app uses shipping boxes and QR codes to offer augmented reality experiences.

When Amazon’s not jangling retail nerves with its October Prime Day shopping event, it’s apparently advancing new technologies, from a palm-reading device to its latest work with augmented reality.

With a new stand-alone app, which hit Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store at the end of last week, the company has spun its most ubiquitous vehicle, the Amazon shipping box, into an AR tool to entertain customers.

The Amazon AR app will work with boxes pre-printed with QR codes — which have only now started going out — to unlock different experiences.

Amazon AR visuals can be saved, put in selfie mode and shared.  Courtesy photo

At launch, the primary experience centers on a seasonal pumpkin theme: Users can draw a pumpkin on the box and it jumps out in AR, viewable using the phone’s screen. From there, they can customize the design and capture the AR image or put it in interactive selfies, which become animated along with the user’s movements.

Other scenarios will turn the box itself into a small car or let loose a little digital Corgi, 2019’s most popular dog.

There aren’t a lot of QR-coded boxes circulating yet, so the company posted an online version to enable the public to get a taste.

Amazon offers a demo page, so users can try out its new AR app.  Courtesy image

Amazon is no stranger to AR. But unlike with its AR View for furniture or home goods shopping, commerce is not the point with this app. Ramping up social media, á la Snapchat Lenses, might be, especially since the interactive AR visuals can be saved and shared. The other possibility is that Amazon merely wants to know if there’s appetite for interactive AR among its customers, as there appears to be elsewhere on social media.

Notably, the new app arrives just ahead of Apple’s “Hi, Speed” event on Oct. 13, when the company is expected to reveal a new 5G-capable iPhone 12.

Anticipation runs high that at least one of the upcoming iPhones will also come equipped with LIDAR, a laser technology used for measuring distances that can potentially improve the device’s depth-sensing capability. If true, the addition could boost Apple’s TrueDepth functionality for phone-based measurements, interactive augmented reality — which can more accurately track face movements — and other features. Apple has already introduced an iPad with the tech.

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