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Retailers and brands recognize the need to engage with customers more powerfully. One technology that has been on the horizon for a few years but remains shrouded in mystery to many retailers and consumers is augmented reality.

AR enables an interactive experience with a real-world environment, incorporating sensory elements augmented by computer-generated information.

Jameson Detweiler and Cortney Harding explain
the benefits of augmented reality.

AR entrepreneurs Cortney Harding and Jameson Detweiler offered their insights on the technology this week during Infocomm at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Harding is founder of Friends with Holograms, a New York City area augmented and virtual reality agency. Detweiler is co-founder of Fantasmo, a Los Angeles-based provider of 3D maps and AR apps.

Though AR is still in its infancy at retail, the speakers said that it offers a new way to excite consumers — one that is more economical than creating physical experiences.

Another benefit of AR is that experiences can be customized to a specific environment. The technology can also convey a sensory connection with a product in a matter of minutes.

AR boosts cosmetics sales

Harding pointed to Modiface, an AR solution that has increased retail cosmetic sales by allowing users to try on simulated cosmetics. According to its website, Modiface uses photo-realistic makeup simulation with dynamic lighting, photo-realistic hair color and style simulation.

“It can increase conversion quite a bit by taking the guess work out of it,” she said.

(Kiosk Marketplace has also reported on YouCam from Perfect Corp., a facial-mapping AR solution that lets users see how they would look in different makeup and hair colors. Users can share these AR images on social media.)

The speakers noted that Apple presented its ARKit 2.0 this week at the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference. Apple has said that this latest iteration of the its AR developer platform makes it easier to build apps.

Harding and Detweiler agreed that support from a major software player such as Apple will expand AR experimentation and deployment.

“It’s not an install issue anymore,” Detweiler said.

Popular culture embraces AR

Many consumers are becoming aware of AR through musical artists such as Eminem and U2, who have used the technology in their performances, Detweiler said. These artists are able to capitalize on the multi-user experience that AR delivers.

However, the “tooling” for AR remains in its infancy, the speakers said.

One of the challenges faced by AR app developers is that the experiences are short lived. Developers need to find ways to extend the experience and keep the user engaged.

According to Harding, another, perhaps bigger, challenge is to create an experience with purpose, utility and focus.

Because AR is such a new technology, it’s important to engage with experts in app development, the speakers said. Detweiler recounted one AR demonstration that required the user to be hunched over the device, which would lead to a strained back.

The people best suited to creating AR content have backgrounds in the gaming and visual effects industries, Detweiler said. He and Harding agreed that creative agencies generally are not experienced with AR.

Within the next five to 10 years, consumers will expect faster access to information and AR will play a role in enabling this, Harding said. Detweiler agreed, adding that younger audiences tend to be more receptive of AR offerings.

AR deployments rising

Kiosk Marketplace has reported on several AR deployments within the past year.

Last year, Chick-fil-A utilized AR at a franchisee event to present new employee uniforms. Attendees at the event were able to view and try on the new Chick-fil-A employee apparel via  Zugara WSS for Kiosks, a popular Virtual Dressing Room solution for events. The solution included various apparel categories for men and women, and auto-sized garments to the user at the start of their session.

Next Now Inc., a company that uses digital technology to bring VR and AR to retail, created a digital face painting kiosk for Intel. The solution has been featured in Best Buy stores, and at the Super Bowl and various festivals. Users position their face in front of the kiosk and are given a choice of four different AR masks to try on.

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