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REDEFINING RETAIL EXPERIENCE VIRTUALLY

Posted on | November 21, 2014 | No Comments





Gone are the days when people jostled for seats in the front rows of sports stadiums. Gone are also those days when shoppers carried a bundle of clothes into trial rooms of garment stores to find the best fit. Today, virtual reality technology has brought the stadium to the sports fan, permanently deleting the signboard of ‘Sold Out’. In the second of our five-part series on Virtual Reality technology, we take you on a tour of how e-commerce has donned a new look with Augmented Reality. 

Planning a vacation doesn’t stop at just skimming through an online gallery. Global hotelier Mariott is “teleporting” its guests to exotic locations virtually allowing them to decide on a vacation spot. Strumming along is travel manager Thomas Cook which is also making use of Virtual Reality technology to showcase its tourism experience to customers in its Concept Stores in England. Not far behind is giant advertising brand Coca Cola. The company turned its entire advertising platform into an entertainment zone during the FIFA World Cup, taking people in Brazil’s Maracana Stadium right into the locker rooms and then onto the pitch, allowing them to score a goal – all without leaving their seat.

While e-retailers have been exploring Virtual Reality technologies for advertising in the public domain to a large extent, automobile giants such as Fiat and Toyota have taken it a step further offering customers and engineers an opportunity to experience “what’s different” in their brand. Fiat has been leveraging VR technology to allow customers to experience its various models in virtual mode. Its virtual reality console also gives customers the opportunity to compare its product offerings with that of its competitors. Toyota, on the other hand, has a well-equipped VR unit in its Lexus centre in Japan that allows customers to test drive in various driving conditions and enjoy a virtually real experience of a vehicle’s performance.

From advertising companies to automobile giants and e-retailers, virtual reality has changed the entire e-commerce scenario. The sector has seen a boom in recent years and virtual reality brings in a whole new experience. As e-commerce becomes more interactive with the advent of virtual reality, all real life queries and experiences can be incorporated in the virtual market.  From finding the right colors that suit your home décor to finding the perfectly matched hairstyle for an ensemble, virtual reality has given e-commerce a powerful tool to enhance customer experience and purchase decisions.

Slide2

Mobile Augmented Reality Retailing

E-commerce has been experiencing unprecedented success and the next best way forward for this industry is to make shopping online all the more interactive and compelling through augmented reality. While virtual mirrors and 4D imaging of products is making that tad difference, Mobile Augmented Reality (MAR) for the retail world is practically revolutionizing e-commerce activities on mobile phone platforms. In a recent report Juniper Research said that e-retailers are set to spend $300 million just to deploy VR capabilities.

MAR technology runs on a mobile phone and depicts the social content and networks as well as product information associated with various consumer items within a visual context. By aiming a mobile phone’s camera at an item’s 2D bar code, a consumer can visualize this information as a swarm of animated 3D avatars that appear to be hovering above the item in the physical world. MAR avatars have different roles such as online reviewers, designers of the system, sales representatives, and even other consumers who have physically been in the store and have shared their opinion on a product.

IBM’s Augmented Reality Shopping Assistant (released in 2013) provides consumers with a personalized shopping experience with immediate product comparisons and special offers as they move through the store. It captures images via the built-in video camera on a user’s Smartphone or tablet and uses advanced image processing technologies to quickly and accurately identify a product or row of items. This app also allows users to see information based on their stated preferences of products and offer coupons or special discounts. The technology is based on IBMs patents US 8451266 and US 6025839. IBM is collaborating with Tesco, one of the leading retailers of the world to ensure that its in-store displays are arranged according to the plan.

Virtual Reality apps pop up extra information about products on departmental store shelves Source: http://retail-innovation.com/

Virtual Reality apps pop up information about products on store shelves
Source: http://retail-innovation.com/

Ads with a personal touch

E-commerce stores are augmenting VR technology to make advertisements more personalized and tailor-made to individual users. Leveraging this potential technology appropriately can help e-retailers reduce the number of clicks it takes to convert a prospect to a customer.

Global giant toy manufacturer LEGO launched the LEGO Connect App in January 2013. This app allows consumers to point their mobile to a Connect icon on a LEGO catalog anywhere and bingo! all product information, 3D assembled models, reviews and a link to purchase it is displayed right there. This app has earned much positive feedback with at least 24,000 return users spending anywhere between four to 10 minutes interacting here.

Source: http://daqri.com/

3D characters come to life on the LEGO Connect
Source: http://daqri.com/

Home improvement store Lowe’s Canada connected with digital agency Red Piston to explore AR’s potential to take customers where they had never been before. Lowe’s Canada used the mobile to deliver a unique virtual product experience within a traditional flyer using an app. When the flyer was viewed through the mobile device’s camera, appliance images popped out into the real world, inviting users to actively engage and interact with the products. They could turn on a dryer to see how it spins and open a refrigerator to check out its compartments. With hotspots of product information appearing at the right time, users could glean even more from their immersive experience.

For the Middle East market, Toyota sought forward-thinking marketing promotions to accelerate interest in the 86 while enabling consumers to enjoy the look, feel and driving experience first-hand. The carmaker embraced mobile experiential technology and launched the “Made to Thrill” advertising campaign. The Toyota 86 AR mobile app simulates test-drives to help consumers feel and experience everything the new Toyota 86 embodies. Using smartphones and tablets, consumers could activate the app from posters at shopping malls and trendy hangouts, and as the app gained online momentum, they could also print their own posters from the toyota86ar.com website. In the first 10 days following its launch, the Toyota 86 AR app reached 70,000+ downloads.

The Guinness World Records book is sold in 100 countries and offered in 25 different languages. Being a reference- and image-driven book, Guinness wanted to bridge this traditional medium with digital assets and to make them more remarkable for the readers and partnered with Appshaker to develop compelling AR enhanced visuals. One of the most popular factoids in the book features the world’s shortest man, Chandra Bahadur Dangi, from Nepal. Standing 21.5 inches tall, Dangi pops out of the pages when a device loaded with the app is pointed at an extra feature layered behind his photo. Readers can actually have their picture taken with him and send it to friends and family, a feat never before accomplished in a hybrid print/digital publication.

Guinness World Records chief editor Craig Glenday uses the VR app to see how he matches against the world's tallest man Sultan at 8'3" and the world's shortest man Dangi at 21.5" Source: http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com

Guinness World Records chief editor Craig Glenday uses the VR app to see how he matches against the world’s tallest man Sultan at 8’3″ and the world’s shortest man Dangi at 21.5″
Source: http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com

While VR technologies have taken entertainment to a new high and are giving consumers a wonderful shopping experience, these technologies are offering an absolute edge of precision for the armed forces and medical fraternity. The third of our series covers interesting insights into the worlds of militia and medicine, and their integration with virtual reality.

PASSWORDS, BEAT A RETREAT. THE HEART IS HERE

Posted on | November 18, 2014 | No Comments

Going are the days of remembering a zillion passwords for a slew of credit cards. Your heart is soon going to put your mind at ease by beating away all those passwords and becoming a code by itself.

You read that right.

Canadian start-up Bionym is testing a wearable device using near field communication (NFC) technology. This device, called the Nymi, is possibly the first biometric alternative for contactless mobile based payments in a multibank program for the common man. The pilot project is set to kick off with customers of the Royal Bank of Canada.

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How does it work?

Bionym’s NYMI wristband has an NFC chip embedded in contactless credit cards that are fed inside a wristband. The device then records the wearer’s “unique heartbeat” or electrical pattern of the cardiac rhythm to verify the identity. The wristband uses an ECG sensor that will acknowledge the individual heart rhythm to authenticate and unlock. Once unlocked the wearer can leave the phone at home and the device will still be activated.

Source: www.getnymi.com

Source: www.getnymi.com

A solution to credit card thefts?

Now that’s a question to ponder.

Credit card thefts happen in two prominent ways: one, where a reader strip planted in the terminal captures credit card data when it is swiped; and second, by breaking into a merchant terminal and retrieving a card holder’s credentials.

Bionym’s patented (US 20140188770 A1) wristband technology can help prevent the first method of theft as there is no requirement to swipe a card. For the second form of theft, upgrades in NFC technology allow unique card number generations for each transaction thereby negating the other method.

A wristband that beats your credit card password  Source: http://cdn4.nfcworld.com/

A wristband that beats your credit card password
Source: http://cdn4.nfcworld.com/

Unlock with a wave

Nymi has been designed to support Windows, OS X, iOS and Android platforms. This will allow the bracelet to also be used to unlock devices and log into websites and apps. While this is just the beginning and the product is yet to be launched, Bionym has already begun working on developing it to the next level of gesture-recognition to operate smart appliances.

So while you place your band to make your card payments, soon enough you can switch TV channels or moderate the temperature in your thermostat with just a wave of your band.

TIME TRAVEL WITHOUT JET LAG

Posted on | November 14, 2014 | No Comments

When Boeing introduced its commercial 767 Dreamliner, passengers on long haul flights could observe a marked reduction in fatigue and jet lag. The credit goes to the aircraft’s big windows that reduce motion sickness and the LED lighting that stimulates sunrise and sunset across time zones to ease jet lag effects.

Working on more advanced features, UK-based Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) has developed what could become the world’s first windowless aircraft – and this is likely to hit the runway in ten years’ time. Even better, French company Technicon Design has already begun testing its windowless aircraft called the IXION Windowless Jet Concept. And if the concept of a windowless aircraft sounds like a nightmare, it’s time to rid yourself of the fear for you can enjoy a worldview as you soar through the air.

Exterior view of an IXION windowless jet plane by French company Technicon Design (Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/)

Exterior view of the IXION windowless jet plane by French company Technicon Design
(Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/)

How much windowless is windowless?

This decade-away-in-the-making aircraft will have the entire length of windows replaced by full-length OLED screens displaying panoramic views captured by cameras placed on the aircraft’s exterior. The same screens can be used to provide in-flight entertainment and internet access.

Executives can also use the embedded screens to for business meetings, video conferencing and presentations in the air. (Source: http://www.cnn.com/)

Executives can use the embedded screens to for business meetings, video conferencing and presentations in the air.
(Source: http://www.cnn.com/)

This can be achieved by lining the cabin and seatbacks with smart display screens that tantalize the visual senses with a panoramic view of the outside that come from a set of cameras mounted to the plane’s exterior. And for those who don’t want to witness the outside view and landscape from different angles, they can flick over to the usual in-flight entertainment or order meals through touch screen   menu cards.

In addition to providing entertainment, the screens fitted directly into the fuselage or into the wall panels provide subtle cabin lighting from gently glowing walls that can be switched on or off. Such lighting effects from these panels can help offset jet lag by allowing passengers to control color changes associated with sunrise and sunset. This system is extremely effective for long haul passengers to adjust to time zone changes.

Slide3

Going windowless is advantageous

Removing windows negates the need for heavy housing and reduces the weight of an airplane, in turn cutting down on fuel consumption. Industry figures show that for every 1% reduction in weight of an aircraft, fuel costs go down by 0.75% which results in a significant drop in carbon dioxide emissions.

More so, a windowless aircraft helps create more cabin room which translates into greater leg room for travelers.

Projecting the unreal

A windowless aircraft can utilize its screens to accommodate other scenes to provide passengers a three-dimensional view that makes it seem like they’re flying through a beach, the Amazon rainforest, over Paris overlooking the Eiffel Tower, or even away from Earth to the space beyond.

Slide4

But the futuristic technology doesn’t end there; the images displayed will also change in accordance with passengers’ head movements.

Slide5

The technology is still not fully developed and there are major challenges to fulfill such as producing bendable OLEDs of such sizes (Read: How graphene can help make such OLEDs come to reality). Once the engineers overcome these challenges it is expected for bigger players in market to file both utility and design patents to mark their intellectual territories in the aviation industry.

VIRTUALLY REAL OR REALLY VIRTUAL?

Posted on | November 12, 2014 | No Comments





Gone are the days of simple joysticks and gaming consoles. Today, 3D multimedia is travelling the real way trying to offer an absolutely immersive experience. In the first of our five-part series on virtual reality, we take you through the world of entertainment and how virtual reality is giving users a complete haptic experience.

Hobbies form a major part of entertainment and the world of entertainment is growing bigger and easier to access. Soon enough, art lovers can stop worrying about travel costs and visit the Louvre, the Acropolis and the Smithsonian all in a day. Travelers can walk through the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, circumambulate the Taj Mahal and enjoy the sunset view from atop the Lighthouse of Alexandria in a matter of hours.

This is Reality… albeit Virtual.

3D computing and affordable head mounted displays are defying time, distance and gravity and bringing the world to the eyes of people. And the entertainment industry has practically made this its bread and butter for the day. Players in the entertainment segment are not just offering a virtually real experience, but are moving to the next level of offering an immersive experience not in traditional gaming alone, but in the wholesome sphere of entertainment. This means that you step into a virtual reality console, slip on gloves that interact with the virtual environment and allow you to “touch” and “feel” objects, “speak” to characters in the virtual world, and voila! experience what you would experience in reality.

Slide6

Virtual Reality has had a huge impact on the entertainment industry. From games to movies to fine art, virtual reality has found its place in almost all the vertices of the entertainment industry. In gaming, Virtual Reality (or Augmented Reality) dates back to the 1990s, when several game manufacturing companies came up with various technologies. Over time, the evolving technology is finally finding its way into consumers’ homes.

Theatre pushes boundaries

Little did one think that theatre could become a favored experimenting stage for virtual reality. In a recent experiment, Parisian choreographer couple Marie-Claude Pietragalla and Julien Derouault teamed up with 3D virtual reality developer Dassault Systems and showcased a play based on Eugene Ionesco’s dramas – in virtual mode.

The play – Mr. & Mrs. Dream – involves artists simply jumping and dancing on a nearly empty stage. But viewers saw them bouncing off meteorites, ducking from space rocks and dancing in outer space.

A shot of the sets of Mr. & Mrs. Dream (Source: http://www.wired.com/)

A shot of the sets of Mr. & Mrs. Dream
(Source: http://www.wired.com/)

Theme Parks

There was a time when Haunted House and Jurassic Park were popular themes for virtual reality experiences in theme parks. Today, augmented reality has gone way ahead to bring the theme park to your computer. Using a combination of RFID enable bracelets and data sensors theme park creators are experimenting on offering a virtual doppelganger experience to viewers in 4D mode.

While this is still in its nascent stage, The Live Park in Korea has for now combined a real and virtual environment that allows visitors to create an avatar of themselves and interact with objects throughout the park.

A virtual real experience at Korea’s The Live Park (Source: http://www.designboom.com/)

A virtual real experience at Korea’s The Live Park
(Source: http://www.designboom.com/)

Sporty style

The Wimbledon Seer app released in 2009 (it was developed by IBM and runs on Google’s G1 Smartphone) gives anyone in the stadium using a Smartphone the ability to superimpose additional data about the match onto the court when viewed through the camera’s lens.

Nintendo’s 3DS, a handheld game console released in February 2011 gives gamers the ability to enjoy 3-D gaming without the need to wear special glasses. But there’s another feature of the 3DS that Nintendo is bullish on – its ability to include augmented reality.  Using 3DS cameras and six AR cards included within the system, players experience the illusion of game characters appearing in their living rooms. What’s more, they can interact with their heroes, tapping a button to change poses. In addition, the device comes with special AR Games, giving users the opportunity to battle a dragon, fire arrows and even play a modified version of pool.

Touching sensibilities

Until recently, the entertainment industry was grappling with the problem of offering a complete immersive experience that catered to users’ sense of touch. Tactical Haptics is one company that is making remarkable strides in inventing technologies that provide complete haptic feedback. Its applications are simple and economically viable, allowing gaming and other entertainment companies to integrate haptic technology with ease into their products.

Apple is another big player in the haptic feedback domain and owns an important patent that describes a system where at least two actuators are positioned beneath a multitouch input device to provide vibratory feedback when a user makes contact with the unit. More specifically, the patent provides for one actuator to induce a feedback vibration, while at least one other actuator creates a second vibration to suppress the first from propagating to unwanted regions of the device, thereby “localizing” the haptic experience.

Bringing the RoomAlive

Microsoft has created a magical entertainment patented suite called RoomAlive that offers an immersive gaming experience. The console adapts itself to a room of any size, tracks the position of gamers and projects objects across the room for them to touch, shoot, dodge and steer seamlessly in an existing real environment. In fact, RoomAlive is an extension of Microsoft’s IllumiRoom that garnered much attention during the unveiling of the next-gen Xbox in 2013.

From visiting places of worship to encompassing tourism, art, sports and gaming, virtual reality has spread its wings far and wide in the entertainment industry. In a bid to offer brain flipping core experiences, the VR industry has much to explore and invent. And while it explores the entertainment industry, our next blog takes a look at how it’s performing in the world of e-commerce.

 

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