In the future, we will ultimately carry around our favorite stores in our pockets, thanks to VR, AR, MR and holograms. Just imagine sitting at home with a blend of visual recognition and an e-catalogue of furniture helping you project a virtual presentation onto a photo of your very own room, or virtually experiencing your next holiday destination through a 3D presentation at home or in-store.

Two technologies that will soon become invaluable for onlife consumers are virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR, which involves laying text and/or images on top of your smartphone visual).  AR involves laying text and/or images on top of your smartphone visual. Through the use of AR, literally any place can be transformed into a virtual showroom to look at goods, regardless of whether you are at home, in your kitchen or in the store.

AR, for example, could help you picture what the couch you are eying might look like in your own home. IKEA, Target and Amazon’s apps let customers overlay, move and rotate an item in a live camera view mode to see how the item will fit and look in real time. Through the use of AR, literally any place can be transformed into a virtual showroom to look at goods, regardless of whether you are at home, in your kitchen or in the store. For every type of product, ranging from technology and electronics to clothing and consumer goods, customers are constantly on the lookout for more information. Using their smartphone, customers can point at any product and get augmented information. With AR information on products in-store, customers are more likely to grab a product on impulse, even if they’ve never tried it before.

Mixed reality (MR) is where VR and AR meet. Other people can join in with MR and share the experiences of the person wearing the VR-glasses. Shopping is another option in MR: items on your grocery list would light up when you pass through the aisles of the supermarket, provided you are wearing the right gear.

Both VR and AR are gaining popularity. Marks & Spencer has started experimenting with Oculus Rift to let its customers compose their perfect living room. A headset allows for 360-degree images to be projected in stereoscopic 3D with a 100-degree field of vision, truly tricking your brain into believing you are somewhere else. You can turn your head and the image simply moves with you without making you dizzy. In 2015, Tommy Hilfiger showed his fall line in virtual reality to let customers experience what it’s like to be on the catwalk. Travel is adopting VR too: hotels in Dubai use VR to rent rooms, Marriot has a 4D option using low-cost VR glasses, and Thomas Cook paired with Quantas Airways to allow new digital connections between brands and consumers. Spanish travel retailer Navitaire lets you book your entire trip in VR: select your hotel room, try out different rental cars and walk through the cabin of the plane.

Hologram

The advanced new hologram technology is a whole different ballgame. Letting you evoke 3D projections of goods and services wherever and whenever you please, this option is only being used by retailers in fashion and luxury goods — for now. For example, Miss Sixty, the Italian fashion brand, projected models in-store trying on outfits after-hours. Another way luxury brands are using holograms is to enhance packaging and make it interactive.

In the future, we will ultimately carry around our favorite stores in our pockets, thanks to VR, AR, MR and holograms giving us the option to visit a store no matter where we are. As said before, just imagine sitting at home with a blend of visual recognition with products that fit your very own home, kitchen, bedroom or virtually experiencing your next holiday destination through a 3D presentation in-store or at the own home.

Next week: building through bits and bytes, 3D technology (10)

Blogs from my book

This is blog 9, based on my book ‘The end of online shopping. The future of retail in an always connected world’, published by Business Contact (Dutch/Flemish editions), Nubiz (English edition) Post & Telecom Publishers, Beijing (Chinese edition, from Q1 2018). The book will also be translated into Danish, German, Italian and Portuguese in 2018.