Amazon's new Fire Phone had to be about getting people to buy stuff from Amazon, right? Of course. Enter Firefly, which turns the Fire Phone into a sort of universal object scanner that'll recognize books, DVDs, or jars of Nutella, and help you buy them—from Amazon.
This sounds a lot like both Amazon Flow and Amazon Dash tucked into the new smartphone, but with much broader applications: whereas Dash was aimed at groceries and home products, Firefly will recognize pretty much anything. Scan a song, and it'll pop up an Amazon link or an iHeartRadio station. Scan a video game, and it'll show you where to buy it.
But there's more to it than purchasing. Scan a TV show, and it'll offer a DVD (naturally) but also info about the actors in the scene. It can even scan artwork to pull up the related Wikipedia page:
...or scan phone numbers so you can put them in your contacts list, automatically:
So how's it work? Basically, the phone takes a photo, scans it for info, and just sends the details it needs back to HQ. There's a dedicated button to trigger it, which makes scanning (and thus, buying) stuff extra easy.
And Amazon built Firefly on an open SDK, meaning third parties can harness the feature's power to their own good. Bezos says wine merchant Vivino will use the SDK to tell wine buyers about ideal food pairings and the like. One app that's already using the tech is Myfitnesspal, which can scan, for example, a can of soup and tell you the nutritional info of what's inside.
Basically, in addition to being a smartphone, it sounds like Fire Phone is like a tricorder for the world around you. If it works in the real world the way Bezos says it will, that's gonna be strange and nifty and futuristic all at the same time.