Innovative Retail Technologies

JAN-FEB 2017

Innovative Retail Technologies (formerly Integrated Solutions For Retailers) is the premier source for innovative yet pragmatic technology solutions in the retail industry.

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Page 33 of 39

HTC Vive, and headsets that use a smart- phone as the display, such as the Samsung GearVR or Google Daydream. Augmented reality blends digital con- tent over the top of images of the physical world, giving the illusion that digital con- tent is physically there in your living room, office, or wherever you might be. Pokémon Go, for example, uses AR to make game characters appear as if they are floating in your local park. Major brands have already experimented with AR. IKEA produced an app that allows people to see furniture digitally displayed in their living rooms, and McDonalds Australia used AR to pro- mote its use of local ingredients with an app called "Track my Macca." Both demos are on YouTube. Mixed reality is perhaps the most com- pelling of these technologies but remains a few years away from being ready for prime time. MR is similar to AR, only better. MR headsets use sophisticated cameras to understand the world around the viewer and then add digital objects in a way that convinces the brain they are really there. Examples of MR platforms include Micro- soft HoloLens, and a headset being built by secretive startup, Magic Leap. If you've not seen them before, you will be amazed at what these platforms promise to deliver. How VR, AR, And MR Will Change Retail VR allows you to envelop consumers in your brand. When used well, VR can be a marketer's dream. Brands are ultimately about emotion, and the power of VR is its ability to engender strong emotion in customers. VR is also great for browsing. Why check out a vacation destination on a boring old web page when you can "go there" using VR? Marriott's experi- mental Teleporter booth allows you to look around a hotel and view potential destinations. VR will be used to create entire end-to- end shopping experiences. Alibaba's VR shopping platform, Buy+, enables shop- pers to browse and purchase products in a virtual store all from the comfort of their living room. Don't expect Amazon to be far behind. Companies like Cappas- ity are building cloud-based software to help brands build their own VR shopping experiences, including creating 3D scans of products and adding VR capability to existing e-commerce business processes. One of the shortcomings of VR shop- ping systems is the need to remove the headset when making a payment (on your phone or computer). This hurdle may soon vanish too. Alibaba is exploring the use of a "nod to purchase" gesture on their Alipay platform. Ultimately, retinal scanning technology may be incorpo- rated in future headsets to make VR purchasing more secure. AR is perfect for "try before you buy," enabling you to see how objects will look in your home before you make your purchase. Home décor, remodels, and artwork sales will inevitably change. Looking forward, the smart money is on AR/MR being much bigger than VR in terms of usage and impact. Once MR be- comes mature enough for mass deploy- ment, it could quickly displace mobile as the primary way people interact with digital information. Smartphones won't go away, the same way PCs have not van- ished from our lives, but the go-to meth- od for digital interaction will ultimately shift towards mixed reality, voice, IoT, and artificial intelligence. I have called this the Fourth Era of personal computing, and it's coming much more quickly than most people anticipate. In this era, our percep- tion of the world will become a combina- tion of both physical and digital, opening up the opportunity for all brands to sell both physical and digital goods. Most will be combinations of the two: a physical object that has digital content associated with it. A cereal box might have a cartoon that animates on it, flat pack furniture might come with AR assembly instruc- tions, and your eggs might come with a virtual egg timer. As the prices of these platforms drop, millions of consumers are going to be looking for VR, AR, and MR shopping experiences. In the mid-'90s, the first re- tailers to embrace online stores gained a sustained advantage over their competi- tion. The same is true today. If you haven't already, you should build your VR/AR/MR strategy right now. 31 Jan-Feb 2017

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