RSR Research: Beyond Mobile – Augmented Reality for Retail
By Nikki Baird, Managing Partner, Retail Systems Research
a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of an
article from Retail
Paradox, Retail Systems
Research’s weekly analysis on emerging issues facing retailers.
the time has come to talk about something that has been increasing in buzz
in the general tech community, because of the potential to apply it to
retail. So here’s my definition of augmented reality: the real-time
overlay of digital information over an image of the physical world. In
a lot of ways, augmented reality provides the same kind of interaction
that quick read codes do, but with a more seamless user interface.
Instead of using a camera to snap a picture of a barcode or QR code, you
simply turn the camera on (most likely by accessing a phone app that utilizes
the camera but also provides the additional data overlay) and aim it at
what you want to know more about.
Yelp’s iPhone app is the most recent to garner attention for augmented reality capabilities, overlaying its reviews on camera views of the real-world environment. Now being tested by Yelp, users find the closest restaurants, complete with ratings, simply by pointing your camera down the street.
It’s not that far of a
stretch to imagine the retail applications. Product reviews is an easy
one, though the image recognition is a bit more complex than simply location-aware
overlays on Google Maps. Locating the nearest retail store with the product
you’re looking for is another example. Lowest price for a product? Online
availability of a product? How about, where is the nearest employee in
the store? (Wouldn’t that be great?) Wayfinding, friend-finding, and
product-finding are all applications that have potential in retail.
What does it mean for retail, besides “throw
out your mobile 3-year plan and start over”? It certainly means mobile
experimentation round two. It means there is a serious opportunity for
someone to tackle the product imaging space to see if they can start connecting
product images to product data that will be valuable to consumers. Certainly
video analytics applications are smart enough to spot an item in a product
image, much like facial recognition software.
More important in my book
is the reminder that the consumer user interface is still evolving
in major ways. One of the AR apps shown in a Technology
Review blog utilizes glasses to provide the data overlay, leaving
the user hands-free. If we successfully navigate that jump, how long
before your “mobile” app
needs to be optimized for stereo-vision?
Too “out there” for you? It’s closer than
you think. And, just as online changed consumers’ expectations from retailers,
new user interfaces will easily have the same impact, forcefully thrusting
retailers once again to the forefront of consumer technology adoption —
whether they’re ready or not.
Questions: Will the arrival of “augmented reality” technologies transform
the retail shopping experience? What other potential applications at retail
might make use of technologies such as phone cameras? Which applications
will be most useful for consumers and stores?
- Beyond Mobile: Augmented
Reality for Retail – RSR Research
- Augmented Reality Apps For Your Cell Phone – Technology Review