What does Google's I/O 2017 event mean for retail?

Google held its annual I/O event for developers last week announcing some exciting new projects as well as the continuing development of some technologies that are highly relevant for retail. 

AI as the great enabler 

The search giant has noticeably been trying to position itself as an AI-first company with announcements including a new powerful chip and supercomputer that aims to speed up advancements in AI. While AI isn’t a customer facing technology as such, it’s going to be powering and enabling a lot of the other more ‘front-end’ technologies that are emerging, such as image recognition, AR/VR and bots. The fact that Google is investing in the semi-conductors that will power this technology perhaps shows its foundational importance to the next generation of computing and intelligent services and products. 



AR and VR enhanced shopping

Google’s AR engine Tango is being incorporated into its VR platform Daydream, and at the same time Daydream is going to appear in ‘all-in-one’ VR headsets, which all points to the gradual growth of VR into a mass-market channel. While applications of VR in retail are still embryonic, the use of AR and the Tango platform, which allows clever merging of virtual and physical objects is producing some interesting retail collaborations and use-cases.   

As we reported earlier in the year, the company has been working with Gap on an AR app shoppers can use to visualise clothing. Attempting to approximate trying on the clothes in real life, the app superimposes a 3D render of the garment onto a virtual mannequin. Users are able to view the newly dressed augmented mannequin from any angle and place it in real-word environments.

More recently Lowe’s has launched an AR app using Google Tango-enabled phones. The ‘Vision’ service lets customers visualise products in their homes, by measuring the space and styling it with Lowe’s products. The hardware store has been testing other VR and AR technologies in-store, debuting a Tango powered product finder in March. 



Google Lens turns cameras into a search tool

Lens leverages AI powered computer vision and uses your smartphone camera to search the internet and give you more detailed information regarding what’s around you. Lens gives consumers the instant potential to discover more about real-world objects, and as AI powered computer vision gets smarter, more objects, people and places will become visually searchable on the web. As such, the potential for using this technology for creating connected stores is immense.

We can see applications for driving footfall, shoppable content and objects. For the time being, the product is limited by having to be used via a mobile camera interface, but will really come alive through smart glasses. 

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Instant Apps

Originally announced at last year’s Google I/O instant apps are now available to all Android developers. Instant apps are a way for developers to offer a light version of an app without requiring download and installation from an app store. This is great for users who want to perks of using an app but don’t want the inconvenience. 

There are a handful of instant apps already available to consumers and we can see how they could be used in conjunction with in-store WiFi and Physical Web Beacons to drop shoppers straight into an app experience in a couple of clicks. 

Instant apps won’t stay on the users phone, but they can be accessed via a shortcut, and perhaps will be used to introduce key app features to encourage the download of the full app at a later stage. 











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