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EBay Augmented-Reality App Lets You Try It On Before You Buy

One of the problems with ordering clothing online is not knowing whether it will fit or look good.

EBay has a technology fix for that using augmented reality on the mobile phone. Now you will never have to go to the mall!

The feature launched in Apple’s App Store yesterday as part of an update to eBay’s mobile app that launched five months ago.

There are two options: Try on sunglasses with “See It On” or build an outfit with “Outfit Builder.”

Here’s how it works:

With “See It On,” iPhone 4 owners can take a picture of themselves using a forward-facing camera and then pinch and zoom to fit the glasses to their face. Users can choose from a small section, including Aviator, Wayfarer or Rimless, in various colors. From there, they can search for matching listings on eBay.

For clothing, the augmented reality feature is called “Outfit Builder.” Users can designate favorite pieces of clothing with the eBay app and store them in their “Personalized Closet.” Then, they use “Outfit Builder” to mix and match items in the closet. To try the items on, the user can similarly overlay the clothes on a white canvas or a saved photo or live image (by pointing the camera toward a friend or a mirror).

Once an outfit is created, it can be saved for future reference or shared via email.

This is the first time eBay has tried using augmented reality in its apps, so it’s questionable how easy it will be to use, or how useful. It could be a fun novelty factor, which is working for other companies, like Polyvore, a start-up that allows people to create outfits online by mixing and matching fashions from all over the Web.

EBay’s mobile apps generated $2 billion in sales last year, which breaks down to 13 pieces of clothing, pairs of shoes or accessories every minute.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik