In an effort to capture shoppers in need of replacement parts, Amazon has introduced “Part Finder,” a new feature baked into their mobile app. The feature is exactly what it sounds like: you take a photo of a spare part (like a screw, nut, or bolt), and the Amazon app tells you exactly what it is. According to TechCrunch, Amazon acquired visual recognition technology company Partpic in 2016, giving the retail giant access to the technology necessary to build “Part Finder.”
When testing Amazon’s new feature, Part Finder was unable to identify a hex key I found lying around the office. The app asked me to retake the photo on a “light-colored, uncluttered background,” but still could not identify the specific part. Part Finder also requires the user to have an increasingly uncommon penny on-hand — I had to ask several coworkers before I was able to find one. Despite the hangups, the feature was simple enough to use.
It is yet to be seen how effective and accurate Part Finder is, as well as how threatening it will be to local hardware stores and national chains. Home Depot, for example, has made continuous investments to stay competitive, including supply chain and technology advancements. Due to the nature of hardware and home improvement sales, brick-and-mortar stores have been particularly resilient in the age of Amazon — home repairs require urgency, customers rely on superb customer service, and large products are difficult and expensive to fulfill in an e-commerce model.