Rabbit ears, dog noses and glitter: Today, augmented reality is known to many primarily as a form of entertainment. However, companies are proving AR has much more to offer. We may soon encounter augmented reality more often in everyday life, for example online or on the ground in shopping malls, retail stores or even in restaurants. Read on to see how.
Of course: Instagram filters are first and foremost meant to be fun. But anyone who has ever tried out a weird hat, a gaudy make-up or various accessories with the front camera knows that this technology is more than just entertaining. Together with a solid facial recognition system, as most smartphones can do today, AR is ideal for trying out various products. But this does not have to be limited to the face: In 2020, the New York Times reported that suppliers of shoes and other textiles are using the technology to allow customers to try on clothes virtually at home or on the go.
For example, a new sneaker can be viewed from all sides at leisure on one's own foot and of course also combined with the rest of the outfit – a completely different experience than even 360-degree images can offer. Because of the obvious practical benefits, it is expected that the textile industry will soon use AR on a larger scale. Already, many are reporting significantly increased conversion rates, in some cases of over 90 per cent.
In fact, the lack of a fitting room is one of the last hurdles of online shopping, not only with regard to textiles. Many people also prefer to buy furniture on site because they can get a better impression of the actual measurements. To compensate for this flaw, many companies offer free returns. At best, customers then order several sizes and keep only the one that fits.
AR solutions could change that: Dimensions and colours can be simulated realistically. With a good design, it is thus possible to make individual pieces of furniture appear directly in the desired place in the home with the smartphone: Does the sofa fit or not? Does the sideboard go well with the desk? That can be found out without a tape measure.
And that could have another effect: Although free returns, as is common in many online shops today, are very convenient for the customer, they also produce a lot of unnecessary transport. If products can be inspected so extensively, this reduces returns. Fewer returns are not only in the economic interest of many companies, they also protect the climate.
An AR experience during online shopping may soon be as normal as paying with a credit card. The reasons for this are obvious: AR closes the few but definitely existing gaps between the customer and the digital infrastructure. Shopping supported in this way is thus much closer to the 'real' material experience, even though the many annoying aspects (journey, return journey or queuing) of analogue shopping are still missing as usual. In addition, trying out AR applications is of course also fun and will find its supporters for that reason alone.
What's more, the technology can be used by almost everybody: Web AR allows AR applications to be run directly in the smartphone browser – without an additional app. This removes yet another hurdle that has so far stood in the way of the widespread usability of AR. A person wanting to purchase something often has no time to waste, and certainly does not want to get bogged down by confusing menus or a new app. In this sense, Web AR is hands on: just scan and go.
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