AICEX: con la Realtà Aumentata i clienti possono scegliere (e acquistare) meglio. Con la Realtà Virtuale le aziende possono risparmiare milioni di Euro.
In some of the coverage of augmented and virtual reality, it feels like there are efforts to make it a “versus”: AR vs. VR, like one has to win and the other has to lose. But even though the most basic fundamentals of the technologies are similar – a graphical overlay that is directed at a single user’s experience, and that moves according to the physical movements of the user – they’re actually very different technologies.
While both can feel immersive, only one (VR) is definitely immersive, as in, the goal is to minimize other inputs. The visor eliminates other visual inputs, and often comes with headphones to control auditory inputs. In the Samsung 837 Experience in New York, VR users stand on platforms that vibrate or rock, to give movement inputs as well. Studies are starting to show that people accept VR inputs with the same visceral reactions as real life, bringing new dimensions of care to people with post-traumatic stress disorder to phobias to end of life.
AR, on the other hand, requires interaction with reality – it is an overlay of virtual onto the physical world, with the intent of creating interesting interactions between the two. Eliminating other inputs actually reduces what AR can deliver.
Here’s a round-up of some of the innovations in each.
AR for Consumers:
This kind of AR technology overlays products in the consumer’s home setting, so that they can see if it looks good or will fit or get a better sense for if it will go with pieces the consumer already owns. Consumer electronics have been on board with enabling “what’s the best sized TV for my space” (which someone will have to then wisecrack “the biggest you can afford to put there”) for years. It could easily be the oldest application of AR in retail. Home furnishings retailers have jumped on board as well, with companies like IKEA and Wayfair letting you figure out if you really like that sofa. You can even digitally test out paint colors on your walls without having to break out any paint.
What does it look like on me?
Retailers also have rolled out consumer-facing applications that let them virtually try on clothing, makeup, and accessories. Memomi, a smart mirror technology company, has developed solutions that support all three scenarios, from sunglasses to sundresses. Neiman Marcus has been testing a clothing-oriented version of the technology. Sephora has a virtual makeup app. Jura lets you try on virtual watches on your wrist. The list goes on and on, and doesn’t look like it will stop any time soon – aside from the conversion rate benefits of making consumers feel comfortable about a purchase, there is a lot to say these days about any technology that helps reduce return rates from consumers making purchase mistakes.
Tell me more about this product / how to use this product.
Brands want to reach consumers at the shelf, and combining products at shelves with consumers’ phones will help them do that. Be on the lookout now for Sauza and Hornitos bottles in your local liquor store, which will offer an augmented reality experience around Cinco de Mayo, provided in partnership with Shazam. These experiences can focus on the practicalities of how to use the product or recipe ideas, or can be fun, entertaining branded experiences that cut through the clutter of traditional shelf-edge advertising.
VR for business users:
For retail, nothing is more asset intensive than the decision to remodel or redesign a store layout. Virtual reality has already been around for awhile to help businesses visualize store layouts and potential traffic issues, but as the technology becomes more accepted, it’s becoming a greater part of testing consumer acceptance, A/B testing different format options, and more. It’s far cheaper to build out a virtual store than a real one, and the feedback retailers get about virtual store designs is close enough to what they would get in a physical environment as to make no difference.
Shelf / assortment layout
Retailers have been using VR for shelf and assortment layout, and packaging performance tests for even longer than for store design.
Contextual store walks / real-time views of store performance
Where VR is entering new territory in terms of business use is around the application of analytics to a VR experience. For an executive sitting in headquarters, there is nothing that helps you stay in touch with where the business is at than walking a store, but most important is the ability to “walk” through far-flung stores, or drop into any store in the chain – virtually – and see how it’s doing. Posting analytics through a VR interface that is driven off of the actual store design provides a lot of important context and can potentially surface connections between things like product categories that are physically proximate, which might not be easily found from a chart or a graph. This is much more cutting edge than some of the shelf layout or store design, but it’s definitely coming to retail – there are just too many advantages to being able to dive into the performance of a store, in the context of that store’s layout – to have this not someday be a staple of how a retail executive team evaluates performance.
The Bottom Line
Just because AR is tending toward consumer experiences and VR toward business use in retail does not mean that the respective technologies are exclusive in their applications. I’m certain there will be a shoppable VR experience soon, if I just haven’t missed it already. There is the London bar that offers a VR experience of the Scottish Highlands while you sip whiskey. And there are AR overlays for retailers too, like planogram compliance AR tools that show what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s missing. And I’m sure there are many more innovations to come on all fronts, as we’re really just in the early days of both AR and VR acceptance and use, both in businesses and among consumers. But in the end, for an office-bound executive, VR is going to shine light into parts of the business that an executive doesn’t get to see often enough, like far flung retail stores, while AR will more ably serve consumers looking to interact with real products in a digital way.
AUTHOR: Nikki Baird CONTRIBUTOR