Automatic shopping: take a photo to buy a CD

Lazy shoppers who see an ad for a music CD that they like can buy it instantly by snapping a photo with a camera phone, thanks to a new service now available in Japan.

The 'ER Search' service links a mobile phone with image recognition software via a 3G network to a server which hosts a database of CD covers.

Shoppers just have to take a photo of the CD – or a photo of an advert for it. A processed and compressed version of the image is transmitted to the server, which searches for the CD cover in its database. Once the user confirms the correct CD has been identified, it is automatically paid for and delivered by courier. The company also provides immediately downloadable versions of tracks.

Recognizes TV ad images, too

The system can also recognize images in TV ads and on PC screens, the operators claim.

The ER Search service was developed by Bandai Networks and online music store, Label Mobile. Label Mobile has more than 150,000 CDs available through the service.

ER Search currently works only on certain NEC phones connected to NTT's DoCoMo iMode FOMA 3G network. Among them are the NEC N903i and N904i. The mobile phone screenshots below show the system in action.

Mobile credit card

The phones support NTT's DCMX mobile credit card technology, which makes the phone function as a credit card.

The image recognition system works with other products. However, ER Search is the first use of the technology to enable instant buying of CDs.

US firm Evolution Robotics developed the image recognition software, ViPR, which is used by the phones. The software is designed to handle images which are tilted, rotated, or perspective distorted because they are viewed at an angle, Bandai claims.


Further Reading:
Bandai Networks press release (in Japanese)