Many smaller vendors are using AR in ways that will blow your mind. Although the apps and ideas have yet to garner the attention directed at Google Glasses, they are definitely worth checking out. Here are some examples of how augmented reality is being used and developed for mobile apps today, and how the technology is advancing at an astonishing rate.
Internet has revolutionised the way we live today. We seek information online, we study online, we watch the news online, we watch movies online, we chat with friends online and we also shop online. Our lives are bound by the internet. As many say, internet is the biggest culture shift we are seeing today, and we are very much a part of it.
Saying this, I believe Technology is the backbone of e-tailing or online retailing. It is also apparent that technological developments will continue to play a critical role in the growth and adoption of e-tailing, primarily by reducing the divide between physical and online stores and by ensuring efficient execution.
Virtual Trial Rooms
Unlike the brick and mortar stores, where we can pick and feel the product before we buy, Online stores do not have a direct connection with the consumers. Hence, all the e-commerce companies, are looking at technologies such as virtual and haptics to replicate experience given by the physical stores.
One such innovation which stands out is the Virtual Trial Room technology which enables the consumers to “try” clothes, jewellery, eye-wear virtually. The technology behind this is called Augmented Reality, which overlays a digital layer of information over a live video feed. You can read more about this technology other articles of this blog.
We have seen that many retailers have experimented with this technology, for example RayBan has launched their virtual trial room recently. Other retailers who have opted for this technology are Banana Flame in apparel, and Vision Express, Tortoise and Blonde Eyewear in the eyewear category in the UK. In India, we see online retailers like Myntra, Zovi, Lenskart etc implement this technology in their online stores.
Current stage of Virtual Trial Rooms
While this technology promises to be the future of shopping, it still in its infancy. We mostly see stores overlaying image of the clothes, jewellery on top an image of the consumer, providing a basic idea of what to expect while buying. Some retailers use images and 3D models, to overlay on top of a live video feed to give a more realistic appeal to the consumers. Other innovations include a robotic mannequin which gives you an idea of the fit.
While these technologies have shifted the user experience paradigm positively and consequently boosted store traffic, there are other advantages offered by the format, including co-shopping, which allows people in different places to examine the same product via the internet and make comparisons.
Integration with social media has huge impact in this technology. One simple share or a ‘like’ or tweet could give the consumer instant feedback from friends and associates. One step further we have social shopping. In physical stores, we often go to shopping with our friends, Online retailers are trying to implement the same experience by using the social graph from facebook, twitter and other social networks.
Future of Trial Rooms
In near future, this social networking site will be favorable to converse about the products catered, usability, traffic, reviews and ideas. People around the globe can collide and share their experience about online shopping and may even get acquainted with constructive benefits of the unpopular E-stores too. This retail based social network with multimedia features is assumed to acquire a good traffic of users enhancing their experience.
Another technology in the offing is haptic technology which will allow online shoppers to touch and feel the product. This could, for instance, let you get explore the ‘texture’ of the garment and so on.
Cameras. They’re everywhere and in everything, usually as a person on the street we connect cameras with the idea that someone is watching us—but in our hands, they have a secondary purpose: they allow us to record and translate our own experience through a device. That’s a long way of saying, “My smartphone can use its camera to give me more information about what I can see—and at the same time share my experience.”
Can one imagine walking into a branded store, or for that matter, even an Adidas or a Nike store, which does not have a fitting room? Yet, when the same brands sell online, people cannot try on their garments before buying. The biggest drawback of online shopping is that the buyer does not know how the garment will look on him or her or how good is the fit. While for online shoppers, this translates into apprehension and unnecessary headache if they have to return the purchase, portals too have to deal with a lot of “returns” and “exchanges”.
Not just for clothing, the same applies to online purchases for jewellery. After spending thousands of rupees, only to find that the jewellery does not look that great on you, is a disastrous experience. It not only leaves us dejected but makes us shun online shopping altogether.
It seems all the problem is with online shopping, so if we stop shopping online, we would always make right buy. No, there is more trouble to come in the normal stores. Have you ever bought something very enthusiastically at the store but realizing once you reach home, that you did not get a sweet deal? I would feel cheated, if it were me. The main reason is that we base our decisions on the available limited information, which is mostly provided by the shopkeeper. Too bad our brains can’t ‘google’ the information to land us the best deal. Moreover, I have not mentioned the problems of shopping like, endless waiting for trial rooms to be free, aimlessly wandering the store by not getting the right item, the long billing queues, the rush in the ‘sale’ season, and many others.
But then, is there someway to overcome these obstacles to make our shopping an exhilarating experience. An answer I can think of is merging the digital world with the real world. In simple terms, we need to create a bridge between the Internet and real life that can be crossed easily and at will. With the advent of smartphones and tablets infiltrating our lives completely, I say, lets use them to their fullest potential.
Amidst all the cacophony, a new technology has emerged, Augmented Reality. This technology promises to build a bridge between two diverging worlds the Internet and Real life leaving the possibilities, limitless. With the smartphones and the tablets as our road we can walk across this path easily. As our shopping case is concerned, we can use these devices to interact, search, share and try.
Let us take the case of Jewellery shopping. Suppose, a store we often visit has an iPad installed for us to have access to all the information we need. Additionally, if all the jewellery which the store has to offer is present in the iPad and we would just have to flip the catalog in the iPad to check them out; would that not be great. Extending our imagination further, what if we could even try the jewellery on ourselves using the iPad’s camera, compare instantly between different items, seek opinions of our friends from social networks, even get recommendations for industry leaders; A whole new style of shopping. This concept of using an iPad to try on Jewellery is commonly termed as Virtual Trial. Now, we could use the power of internet coupled with AR to take shopping on a whole new level.
AR makes even greater sense in shopping online. When shopping online we always face the difficulty of how the item ‘looks’ on us. If we could use the webcam to try on clothes, jewellery, hats on ourselves, it would make our choices much simpler and easier to execute. So next time we shop online, we can be very sure that we made the right buy.
Shopping has evolved in both complexity and adoption. First came the concept of malls and now we are overwhelmed with online stores. Even Virtual shopping has been introduced by big retailers. In fact many online stores have launched a simple image overlay version of the virtual trial rooms. Some retail outlets have started using various versions of iPad solutions for virtual trial. Already we are seeing advancements in the ability to deliver even more realistic virtual simulations, as well as the integration of virtual stimulus with other complementary technologies such as bio-metrics neuroscience and facial recognition which, when executed together, can provide unprecedented understanding of how both human emotions and behavior intersect at the retail shelf.
Virtual Reality was a rage once. It had a good run, especially during the 1990s, and perhaps culminating with Second Life in the decade which just closed. But virtual reality is old in the tooth. People are a lot more interested these days in “augmented reality,” or at least they are on Google where it surpassed “virtual reality” as a search term in last few years or so.
Virtual reality involves the creation of a computer-generated world that a person can interact with in such a way that he or she believes that the virtual world is real. Augmented reality, however, is a meeting of virtual reality and real life, as a computer image melds with real-life images to create a composite for the user to interact with. If virtual reality is a complete immersion in a digital world, augmented reality(AR) is more a digital overlay onto the world. It enhances the real world with digital data, and therefore it is much more interesting than a completely fabricated environment. AR has an element of magic attached to it.
AR has recently been highlighted in various marketing campaigns as a cool way to show products via PC or mobile phone, such as in the concert launch by BBC. But AR is much more than just a gimmick, and has the potential to change product and brand communications in remarkable ways:
- Virtual Fitting Room:
Check out topshops virtual fitting room
- Connect with social networks:
An incredible augmented ID system from TATs to enhance your social and business networks.
- Create virtual maps/ marketing information via phones:
Check out world’s first augmented reality browser from Layar
- Nokia City Lens:
Check out your city.
- Augmented Reality window shopping:
- Google’s AR game:
- Sphero’s Augmented Reality App.
Walk a Beaver in your house.
Our fantasy of “What if walls talk?” is now over. They actually can, but all we need to do is to correctly configure them and tag the walls with appropriate properties to augment. Imagine a world with full of hyperlinks that are linked with all the useful information. The entire world would be nested with information, with one link leading to another.
In simplest of words, Augmented Reality(AR) is the art of super-imposing computer generated content over a live view of the world. It superimposes graphics, audio and other sense enhancements from computer screens onto real time environments. Unlike virtual reality, augmented reality does not create a simulated reality. Instead, it takes a real world object to add contextual data to it.
AR is not a new concept. In fact we have seen it in many different ways over the years. From the yellow first-down lines sketched over a television football game to the movie who “Who framed Roger Rabbit” or even examples as basic as where a projector’s been used to project atop a real setting-all are examples of virtual graphics being superimposed upon a real-life situation.
Augmented Reality is a term coined 19 years ago, coined by Tom Caudell, a researcher at Boeing. He came up with this term when he was working on a project to make it easier to assemble large bundles of electric wire for an aircraft on the floor.
Development of the needed technology for augmented reality systems, has taken a boost with the “Microsoft Kinect” being launched into the market. It has invited a whole lot of developers and researchers to develop products based on AR. In no time this wave of AR has covered the world of research and development, and it’s not wrong to say that it is one of those big things which is there to stay.
Why should we care about AR?
Augmented reality is already a part of your life now. I’m sure you watch a lot of sport matches. The sports broadcast teams use Augmented Reality to project information right on top of the field to analyze some shots, etc., AR is turning out to be the future of Education and the Future of literacy. Writing history directly on reality is not too far. Augmented Reality is not the simple concept you think of projections and augmentations. It’s all about bridging reality and virtuality in the user’s hands.
But as far as I expect, all that I can predict in near future is:
- A conference room with augmented documents
- Book’s Index pages that give you a glimpse of what’s in for the reader
- Food items that can tell you how much calories are present in them
- Roads instructing you to your destination
- Walls acting like your computer monitors.
In the education and literacy perspective, AR will bring the written literacy with visual literacy together. There are a lot of things that we could think of in AR. But let me restrict to all these listed above. Keep looking for the sequel of this analysis soon.