Digital dressing room: Augmented Reality tool for small and mid-sized businesses

The feature, currently used by a few brands, is on the cusp of becoming a standard part of the online shopping experience.


Toronto-based NextTech AR Solutions, one of the companies racing to bring Augmented Reality to ecommerce, is rolling out a new try-it-on feature that can be added to existing digital storefronts. The feature utilizes the camera on a customer's smartphone or desktop device to enable shoppers to digitally don eyewear, jewelry, and other items to check for fit and style.

Also: VR and AR: The Business Reality 

It's far from the first rollout of AR try-on technology we've seen. Glasses purveyor Warby Parker unveiled a proprietary try-it-on feature in its app earlier this year. Sephora allows customers to try on makeup via its Virtual Artist 3D live experience. You can plop virtual appliances on your counter via Amazon's AR View and see whether that polka dot sofa is too bold for your living room via IKEA's Place app.

What NexTech is pitching is a natural evolution of brand-specific apps: An agnostic, bolt-on bit of technology that can slide into current ecommerce storefronts to increase customer confidence and engagement. By making the AR offering web-based, NextTech is hoping to let smaller retailers in on the AR blitz.

"Technologies like augmented reality shouldn't be available only to large brands with deep pockets," says Evan Gappelberg, CEO of NexTech. "There are thousands of small to midsize retailers that don't have budgets or technical knowhow to develop the AR technology in-house that could significantly boost sales by implementing such a technology."

A recent Digital Bridge survey found that 74 percent of consumers expect AR to be part of the online shopping experience soon. It's the tech we've been waiting for ever since Alicia Silverstone's character in the 1990s hit Clueless stood in front of her clunky PC and scrolled through a digitized version of her wardrobe, overlaying the clothes on her photo.

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The NexTech app is more advanced, but it's still rough. An online demonstration renders a pair of aviator sunglasses. Head on the digital glasses sat on my face well, but at an angle they consistently perched somewhere off to the side of my nose. 

NexTech says the app uses facial and eye tracking to position glasses and goggles in real time, providing a passably realistic experience for eyewear. Future iterations of the technology could support lips, ears, and mouths. 

Interestingly, in a taste of the personalized advertising ecosystem to come, the AR experience can be incorporated into banner and social ads, a potentially potent hook to snag casual browsers.

NexTech is getting to the party early with its brand-agnostic technology, but this space is going to fill up quickly. Global ecommerce will soon be a $4.8 trillion industry, and the ability to try things on in advance could decide which brands get a stake. 

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