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App lets you 'see' products in home before buying

By Rachel Metz
AP Technology Writer / November 21, 2011

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SAN FRANCISCO—If you've ever wanted to see how a new lamp or sofa would look in your living room without having to actually lug it home, a new iPad shopping app could help.

Shopping search engine TheFind has rolled out an updated version of its free Catalogue app for Apple Inc.'s iPad with a new feature called "camera view." The feature shows an image of furniture or a home accessory from one of the app's catalogs on the iPad's screen while the tablet's camera is on. This lets you get an idea of how, say, a chest of drawers would appear against the backdrop of a real room in your home when peering through the iPad's screen.

With TheFind's app, camera-view users can adjust its size or placement to make it fit in better with the background, and take a photo of the juxtaposition to send to others.

Initially, only a handful of the app's over 170 catalogs have products available that work with the feature, including furniture and housewares retailer Crate & Barrel. TheFind plans to bring in more items from more catalogs over time.

The sort of "augmented reality" has popped up on a number of apps and video games over the past several years. It often involves using a mobile device's camera, GPS and compass along with its access to a high-speed data network to connect online content to the real world. Online review site Yelp, for example, offers mobile apps that include a feature called "monocle" that allows you to hold up your smartphone or tablet and see information and ratings for nearby businesses.

Eventually, the feature could work with other types of products such as clothing, enabling a user to "try on" clothes by having a friend hold up a camera-equipped iPad that has a pair of jeans on its screen, adjust the size of the pants and snap a photo.