For about the last 15 years, dealers at sports card shows have had to compete with what collectors can get the same item for on eBay. Collectors with a smartphone and a little patience no longer have to wait until they get back to their PC or laptop to compare prices. It's often right there on a mobile app. Now, eBay is almost ready to add image-recognition technology to its mobile platforms. It will give shoppers the ability to take photos of the items they're looking at and have eBay instantly show matching results from its millions of listings.
Speaking in San Francisco Wednesday, eBay CEO John Donahoe said the company is planning to have the feature available by the end of this year. It's not clear yet, however, which of eBay's apps will get the new feature. eBay isn't revealing yet whether the image-recognition package will work on all items or just certain things.
Google currently has a smartphone app that allows users to take pictures of text or certain kinds of objects and matches them to items that are available online.
The development could create an interesting scenario at card shows. With smartphones becoming more and more prevalent, collectors could be snapping photos at dealer tables to obtain instant price comparisons for cards, autographs or other memorabilia if the technology becomes sophisticated enough to recognize each item.
It could benefit casual collectors who see an item they want but aren't sure if it's worth what the dealer is asking. A quick photo and eBay comparison could provide knowledge of the item and representative pricing.
It could be a substantial benefit to collectors--if dealers don't throw a fit and prohibit their items from being photographed.
A crowd of collectors photographing items at dealer tables could also be irritating to others who aren't interested in instant online comparisons.
However, dealers who welcome the new technology and extra competition could earn the respect-- and the business-- of those willing to spend in person but wanting to make sure they're getting a reasonably good deal.