After a decade of research, the scientists at Amazon.com’s A9 subsidiary may have finally solved the Cuecat conjecture, the e-shopping equivalent of math’s unsolvable Riemann hypothesis.
The Cuecat conjecture, named for the most spectacularly awful gadget to ever burn through $250 million*, is based on the hypothesis that human beings have a primeval desire to own a personal barcode scanner they can hold up to anything in order to buy it from Amazon.com
For several years on this blog (starting in 2003), I chronicled a steady stream of gadgets that tried to solve the Cuecat conjecture. From the Cuecat to QR codes, I’ve wondered why obviously high IQ’d people who could be finding a cure for cancer are, instead, developing new iterations of the Cuecat.
Today, the Amazon subsidiary A9 (wait, they’re still around?) launched an iPhone App that it claims, “uses both barcode and image recognition to continuously recognize tens of millions of products in a live camera view, with seamless transition between product packaging and barcodes. Users point to an item and Flow overlays pricing, availability, reviews, media content and other information directly over the item in view.”
That’s what Amazon says it does, but now that I have personally downloaded the app and put it through its paces, I can tell you what it really does: It turns your iPhone into a 2012-version of the Cuecat. See anything in the real-world you might want to buy? Hold up your iPhone and witin nano-seconds you can buy it from Amazon instead of, say, Target or your local bookstore.
The Cuecat never dies.
*”It fails to solve a problem which never existed,” the late Debbie Barham once described it.