Thinking Outside the Box: eBay is Using Augmented Reality to Help Sellers Get Packaging Right

Augmented reality is making waves across many industries, and eBay is leveraging the power of this innovative technology to help sellers with packing up their goods for shipping. Today, eBay is a multinational ecommerce platform, with hundreds of millions of users. The San Jose-based company has revenues of nearly $9 billion, placing it at #310 on the Fortune 500.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality technology has been rapidly evolving over the last few years. Originally seen as little more than a gimmick, the technology has recently taken a quantum leap in public consciousness, thanks to an extremely popular game featuring some famous Japanese cartoon monsters.

Since then, augmented reality technology has started steadily to proliferate, and is finding a place amongst many industries. From helping retail customers by overlaying images of clothing onto pictures of themselves ahead of making a purchase decision, to use in the field service industry to help with training the next generation of engineers, the applications of augmented reality technology are vast and various.

“The future of AR, as with most new technologies, will go down one of two roads – everyday usage that becomes invisible, or a nice-to-have technology that never took off. I suspect the former,” writes technology journalist, Paul Armstrong. “2018 is the year that AR will stretch out into new directions, bringing a lot more people into the game. But instant success is not assured as building revenue takes time, and it will take time to determine which AR platform takes the market share.”


The famous online auction site had previously thrown its hat into the augmented reality arena with a feature which lets buyers “try on” clothing items. However, with its latest AR innovation, it’s the sellers who use the site that eBay is looking to benefit.

With the new feature, sellers can use the eBay app on their Android device to help them choose the correct-sized packaging for the items they’re selling. Built using Google’s proprietary ARCore platform, the app uses advanced motion tracking and environmental understanding to overlay virtual boxes of different sizes onto the real-world item. Users can then physically move around the item to make sure the product fits into the packaging when viewed from all angles.

Anyone who has sold items online before will appreciate the difficulty one can have tracking down appropriately-sized packaging. Usually, an amateur seller will have to acquire a box from the Post Office, which will involve a little guesswork and possible frustration should they get the wrong size on the first try. This new augmented reality feature from eBay aims to take the guesswork out of the process of packaging the goods sold through its auction service.

“An early iteration of this AR feature came from employees during eBay Hack Week, an annual company-wide competition challenging our technologists to innovate and reimagine the ecommerce experience,” wrote eBay in a press release. “Simultaneously, the mobile team had an idea to display boxes around items to indicate that they’ve been shipped. The two teams came together to share knowledge about their projects and then the mobile team developed the technology and partnered with Google to bring it to life.”

Final Thoughts

Augmented reality has many uses in modern industry, and eBay’s new package sizing application is just the latest in a long line. Hopefully, we’ll see even more interesting and innovative ideas come to the fore as the technology develops and progresses.

“By coupling Google’s ARCore platform with premiere AR technology built at eBay, we are continuing to make the selling experience more seamless,” said James Meeks, Head of Mobile at eBay. “This technology is just one example of the types of innovation we’re working on to transform eBay. It demonstrates our continual innovation on behalf of our sellers to help them save time and remove barriers.”

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