Retail AR Update
Last April we wrote that retail AR and VR in stores was just a distraction. Since then we’ve turned a corner. Perhaps it was PokemonGo introducing AR into the mainstream, or more likely the appearance of Google’s Tango AR platform and more recently Apple’s ARKit. Whatever the ingredients, AR in-store is starting to look more useful and potentially mass market than it did 12 months ago. Here’s an update on some of the particularly interesting recent retail AR announcements.
Amazon’s hidden AR shopping tools
Amazon is turning its mobile shopping app into a test-bed for merged shopping experiences. With 7/10 purchases via smartphones, the company is trialling a number of novel approaches, some of which you may not have noticed. These include “shoppable stickers” which allows users to try out products in their home environment using AR, along with an option to share the results. Other features include an outfit comparison tool and image recognition. All of which seek to transcend the limitations of a small screen and blend mobile commerce with the real world.
Now a new patent filed by Amazon could suggest the online retailers ambitious for the future of mobile shopping. The patent filed focuses on adding real life elements into virtual images. The retailer believes that often when purchasing glasses or jewellery the detail of item is lost and doesn’t give users a realistic perception of the object. With the new patent Amazon’s goal is to create enhanced presentations of the physical items on devices.
The technique for accomplishing this uses a three-dimensional sensor to generate data points for the real-life object. The app would keep track of your movements and how light is reflected to project a more realistic presentation.
Example of how devices could be used to mix real and virtual imagery using light data to produce a more realistic augmented reality view of a wristwatch.
The augmented-reality app would then gather the information from data points to portray accurate light conditions for the virtual image.
Beauty gets an AR makeover
Makeup is probably one of the oldest forms of Augmented Reality, so maybe no surprise that Beauty companies are recognising the important role AR will play in the future of shopping in that vertical.
Sephora, Estee Lauder and Smashbox are among beauty brands who have partnered with AR company ModiFace on augmented-reality based try-on experiences. Using web or mobile applications users are able to test product shades on their phone or live video and then shop the products.
L’Oreal joined YouCam Makeup an Augmented Reality Makeup app, to give customers the ability to virtually test makeup from L’Oreal brands worldwide. By leveraging the app at beauty counters the partnership also provides L’Oreal with the opportunity to create seamless customer journeys online to offline.
To back up this trend, this recent report on Immersive Technology market points to retail as the big VR / AR opportunity with cosmetic brands leading the way (see slide 9).
AR home improvements
IKEA and Apple are teaming up on AR, the Swedish retailer will be one of the launch partners for Apple’s augmented reality framework as part of its iOS 11 release. The new AR app will allow customers to preview furniture in their home before purchasing. The new ARKit on iOS has potential to move the use of AR for mobile shopping even further into the future.
Houzz a home decor company rolled out an update to their iOS app with 3D imaging that allows users to virtually place furniture in a room to see how it will look.
Lowe’s the home improvement store launched Lowe’s Vision app in 2016, powered by Tango in partnership with Google and Lenovo. The app is a visualization tool that enables customers to measure, design and drop Lowe’s products into their real, physical home.
Wayfair the online furniture marketplace has a augmented reality app based on Google’s Project tango technology called ‘WayfairView’ that shows customers how furniture looks in their own home, set to scale. The app uses machine-learning technology along with 3D-motion tracking so if a customer walks around their home holding the device they can view how the furniture looks from every angle.
Apple and Snapchat both reportedly have AR headsets in the works.
There hasn’t been an official confirmation that Apple is developing an AR headset but rumors have been circulating since Apple’s announcement it will be incorporating VR and AR features into the iPhone.
Snap could be planning a pair of AR-powered smart glasses for the next Spectacales installment. Snap filed a patent application that indicates what might be in the works.
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