Facebook and AT&T Launch Augmented Reality Experiences
September 20, 2021
Augmented reality is technology that allows users to superimpose digital elements onto their surroundings. Using this technology, consumers can enhance their real world with digital elements such as images, videos, and sounds. Although it is often considered a new technology, augmented reality has been around since the 1960s. However, it has come a long way since this time. For decades, augmented reality technology was used primarily by the military and NASA. But in 2000, Hirokazu Kato built ARToolKit, an open source software library that allowed developers to create a wide range of augmented reality programs for consumers for the first time. Today, augmented reality is used in a number of different fields, including the healthcare, automotive, education, travel and tourism, and retail industries. Some of the largest companies in the world have invested heavily in augmented reality, including Facebook. Because of these investments, Facebook has become a major player in the augmented reality market, and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. The company recently announced its newest venture into the world of augmented reality: a partnership with AT&T. Here’s what you should know about this collaboration: WHAT AUGMENTED REALITY EXPERIENCE ARE FACEBOOK AND AT&T LAUNCHING? AT&T recently revealed that it is partnering with Facebook Reality Labs, the company’s virtual reality and augmented reality department, to create unique augmented reality experiences for consumers. The companies will bring these experiences to life using Spark AR, which is a Facebook platform that allows users to create custom augmented reality effects. The first product of this partnership has already been released to the public. Facebook and AT&T created an augmented reality experience to promote the movie Space Jam: A New Legacy. This experience gives consumers the opportunity to interact with characters from the movie such as Daffy Duck, Tweety, and Lola Bunny. Facebook and AT&T Launch Augmented Reality Experiences [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/smartphone-and-access-to-the-internet.jpg] All you need to access this experience is a smartphone and access to the internet. To begin, visit this website or AT&T’s Facebook or Instagram profile on your smartphone. Then, choose which characters you want to project into your real world surroundings. Aim your camera in the direction where you want the characters to appear. Then, sit back and watch them come to life right in front of you. This experience even allows you to interact with these iconic characters. Use the front or rear camera on your smartphone to snap a selfie with your favorite character. You can also use your smartphone’s camera to direct a short video with these characters. Then, share all of the videos and photos you create within this experience with your friends and family. According to AT&T, its 5G network can enhance this experience for consumers by improving the overall performance and shortening the load times of graphics. This is the first augmented reality experience launched by Facebook and AT&T, but it won’t be the last. The companies revealed that they are working together on various projects, including collaborative video calling and a series of augmented reality experiences that will be available to consumers in the future. Their goal is to create one-of-a-kind augmented reality effects that help consumers connect with friends and family in new and exciting ways. AT&T’S OTHER AUGMENTED REALITY INITIATIVES The Space Jam promotion isn’t AT&T’s only augmented reality initiative. AT&T’s other augmented reality efforts include: * Bookful * The Washington Post * Chicago Bulls * VITAS Healthcare BOOKFUL AT&T partnered with Bookful, a three-dimensional and augmented reality reading app, to create augmented reality experiences for young readers. You must have a subscription to Bookful to access this experience. Then, open the app and select one of the children’s stories to begin. As you read the story, the characters will literally jump out of your smartphone screen and into the real world using the power of augmented reality technology. This gives young readers the opportunity to interact with all of their favorite storybook characters, including Peppa Pig, My Little Pony, and Thomas the Tank Engine. The goal of this experience was to help children develop a love of reading. AT&T and Bookful hope that bringing their favorite characters to life with augmented reality technology will keep kids engaged and interested in reading. The Washington Post [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/The-Washington-Post.jpg] THE WASHINGTON POST AT&T also partnered with The Washington Post to expand the use of augmented reality technology in journalism. The Washington Post used augmented reality to enhance journalistic content prior to the partnership. However, the partnership gave The Washington Post access to AT&T’s 5G technology, which drastically improved the augmented reality experience. This partnership gave consumers the opportunity to explore and learn about current events in a new way. One example of this is The Washington Post’s “How to Dress for Space” content. Instead of just reading about how astronauts dress for space, readers could use augmented reality technology to see life-size digital models of actual space suit designs in their real world environment. They could even get up close and personal with a three-dimensional, digital projection of Neil Armstrong’s space suit. This makes learning far more fun and exciting for The Washington Post consumers. CHICAGO BULLS The Chicago Bulls collaborated with AT&T to create a new fan experience powered by augmented reality technology. The experience, which was called AT&T StatsZone, was available within the pre-existing Chicago Bulls smartphone app. To access this experience, you just need to launch the app and tap on “AT&T StatsZone.” Then, you can click on any player to view their stats for current or past games. But the stats won’t just appear on your smartphone screen. Using augmented reality technology, the stats will bounce off of your screen and into the real world. You can even drag and drop them to customize how you view these three-dimensional projections. In addition to viewing stats, you can also watch augmented reality animations of famous in-game celebrations. These features help strengthen the bond between fans and the Bulls’ organization. VITAS HEALTHCARE AT&T is one of many companies that recognized the important role that augmented reality could play in the healthcare industry. To explore this further, AT&T partnered with VITAS Healthcare, one of the leading providers of hospice care. Together, AT&T and VITAS Healthcare studied how the use of 5G-enabled augmented reality technology could benefit patients. The goal was to determine if providing augmented reality content could alleviate pain and anxiety for terminally ill patients and help them relax and find peace. The two companies also explored potentially using augmented reality technology to train new healthcare workers. This technology could be used to provide hands-on training in a safe-environment to aspiring doctors, nurses, interns, and other healthcare professionals. These are some examples of the many ways in which AT&T has used augmented reality technology. Facebook’s Augmented Reality Experiences [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Facebooks-Augmented-Reality-Experiences.jpg] AN OVERVIEW OF FACEBOOK’S AUGMENTED REALITY EXPERIENCES Facebook is no stranger to the world of augmented reality. Over the years, it has developed numerous augmented reality experiences, including: * Spark AR * The New York Times * Wearables SPARK AR Some people assume that they need to know how to code to build an augmented reality experience, but that’s no longer the case. Anyone with a Facebook or Instagram account can create custom augmented reality experiences on Facebook’s Spark AR platform. You can use this platform to design your own augmented reality effect or filter. You can either upload your own digital assets or pull them from Spark AR’s extensive asset library. Once you are satisfied with your creation, publish it on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and Portal so you can share it with the world. There are a number of step-by-step guides and tutorials available on Spark AR, so you don’t need to be tech-savvy to play around on this platform. THE NEW YORK TIMES The New York Times and Facebook announced a multi-year partnership to create “augmented reality driven reporting.” Together, the companies will use Spark AR to develop a series of augmented reality filters and effects for Instagram. These filters and effects will help consumers gain a deeper understanding of topical news stories. For example, one filter allowed Instagram users to learn more about how air pollution changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The filter darkened the user’s surroundings to show them the severity of air pollution in select cities. It also presented facts on the user’s screen about air pollution, including its causes and why it improved in some areas during the COVID-19 pandemic. This helped consumers learn about the topic of air pollution in an entirely new way. Instead of just reading about it, consumers were given the invaluable opportunity to experience it with the power of augmented reality. Facebook and AT&T Launch Augmented Reality Experiences [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Wearables.jpg] WEARABLES Facebook’s biggest augmented reality project is still in development. For years, the company has been hard at work developing a line of augmented reality wearables for consumers. Facebook has not revealed much about this line of wearables, including when they will be released to the public. However, the company has hinted that the product line will contain a pair of augmented reality glasses along with a wristband and haptic gloves that can be used to control the content projected by the glasses. Both Facebook and AT&T have a long history of launching augmented reality initiatives, so it’s not surprising that these two companies teamed up to build their own unique augmented reality experiences together.
BMW Launches New Art Car Augmented Reality Experience
September 17, 2021
The competition in the automotive industry has always been fierce. Throughout history, automotive manufacturers have used innovative technologies to stand out from their competitors. For example, the first car with a built-in air conditioner system was introduced by Chrysler in 1953. Years later, Nissan released the first car in the U.S. with a built-in backup camera. To this day, automotive manufacturers are still finding new and exciting ways to use advanced technologies. The automotive industry has recently embraced augmented reality, which is a technology that superimposes digital elements onto the user’s real world environment. This technology can enhance the user’s real world with images, sounds, or other digital elements. By superimposing these images on the real world, augmented reality technology blends the real world and digital world together. A number of automotive manufacturers are already using augmented reality technology, including BMW. In fact, BMW recently revealed that its newest venture into the world of augmented reality involves the company’s Art Car program. Here’s what you should know about this unique automotive augmented reality experience from BMW: WHAT IS THE BMW ART CAR PROGRAM? The BMW Art Car project was established in 1975 by Herve Poulain, a French race car driver who had the idea of turning a new BMW car into a canvas for an artist. Poulain, along with the founder of BMW Motorsports, Jochen Neerpasch, selected up-and-coming artist Alexander Calder as the first participant in the Art Car program. Calder accepted the invitation and created a unique design for one of Poulain’s BMW 3.0 CSL race cars. Calder was the first artist to participate in the BMW Art Car project, but he certainly wasn’t the last. Because the project was such a hit, BMW decided to continue it after Calder’s design was complete. Since the 1970s, a panel of international judges have been responsible for selecting other artists for the program. So far, 19 other artists have used BMWs as canvases as part of the Art Car project. Some of the most well-known artists in the world have participated in the program, including Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, Jeff Koons, and Jenny Holzer. Initially, the cars that were created in this program were used as race cars, but the head of the Art Car program has said that the focus has shifted. Now, the goal is to use these cars to advertise BMW’s commitment and connection to the art world. The cars are not available for sale. However, miniature versions of the first 15 designs were sold in BMW dealerships and select museums in the early 2000s. Several of the cars have also been featured in special exhibits throughout North America. But now, BMW has introduced a new way for consumers to experience the cars created in the Art Car program. How to Use Augmented Reality to Experience the Art Car Program [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/How-to-Use-Augmented-Reality-to-Experience-the-Art-Car-Program.jpg] HOW TO USE AUGMENTED REALITY TO EXPERIENCE THE ART CAR PROGRAM For the first time in history, consumers have an opportunity to see and explore all of the Art Cars in one place. All they have to do is download Acute Art, which is an augmented reality app available for smartphones and tablets. To access this experience, consumers need to open the Acute Art app and point their smartphone camera in any direction. Then, they can choose which one of the Art Cars they want to superimpose onto their real world environment. The app will use augmented reality technology to project a life-size, three-dimensional model of the selected vehicle into the user’s world. This gives automotive consumers the chance to get up close and personal with the Art Cars for the first time. Consumers can see what the vehicles would look like in their driveway, parked in their garage, or even in their living room. Because it projects a three-dimensional digital model of the vehicle, the app allows consumers to feel like they are standing in front of an actual car from the Art Car program. The digital model is far more realistic and lifelike than a still image. The best part is consumers can access this experience at any time, from anywhere. Thanks to augmented reality technology, all they need is a smartphone or tablet to play with BMW’s Art Cars. Only 10 of the 19 Art Cars were available when the app first launched. However, the full collection will be available soon since two new cars from the collection are added every two weeks. HOW IS BMW USING AUGMENTED REALITY TECHNOLOGY IN OTHER WAYS? Even though the app is fairly new, it’s already been deemed a success by BMW. One BMW executive even said that they may roll out additional features in the near future. This isn’t the only way that BMW is using augmented reality technology to gain a competitive edge over other automotive manufacturers. BMW’s other uses of augmented reality technology include: * Maintenance and Repair Assistance * Training * Virtual Showrooms * Head-Up Display Maintenance and Repair Assistance [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Maintenance-and-Repair-Assistance.jpg] MAINTENANCE AND REPAIR ASSISTANCE Augmented reality is used to assist auto technicians at select BMW dealerships. These technicians can put on a pair of augmented reality glasses to access the information they need to diagnose issues with a vehicle or make repairs. For example, if a technician is having trouble with a complex repair, they can use their augmented reality glasses to connect with remote automotive experts. These experts will be able to see exactly what the technician sees. They will also be able to project digital elements onto the technician’s real world environment to guide them through the process of diagnosing the issue and making the appropriate repairs. The technician can even use their voice to open and scroll through text documents such as user manuals while wearing the augmented reality glasses. BMW estimates that using augmented reality in this manner will speed up maintenance and repair visits by 70-75%. TRAINING BMW is one of many automotive manufacturers that uses augmented reality technology to train new employees. Employees who participate in these training sessions are asked to wear augmented reality glasses. The glasses are used to project visualizations onto the wearer’s real world environment. These visualizations guide employees through the process of assembling different parts of the BMW engine. Employees are shown a detailed visualization for each step in the process so they can easily follow along and understand what they need to do. There are several benefits to using augmented reality to train new employees. Using augmented reality in this manner allows BMW employees to complete training at their own pace. If they are struggling with a specific step in the process, they can spend more time learning about it before moving on. This ensures that every employee fully grasps the concepts that are presented in training sessions. Augmented reality also allows BMW to train more employees at once. Prior to augmented reality training, BMW had managers training one person at a time. But now, BMW uses augmented reality technology to train three employees at once. Managers are now responsible for supervising these groups of three and helping them use the augmented reality glasses to complete their training sessions. VIRTUAL SHOWROOMS Like many other manufacturers, BMW is also using augmented reality technology to power virtual automotive showrooms for consumers. In the past, automotive consumers had to visit showrooms in person in order to explore vehicles, learn about different models, and narrow down their options. However, augmented reality technology allows consumers to get the showroom experience without ever stepping foot inside an actual showroom. BMW consumers can use their smartphone or tablet to visit a virtual showroom powered by augmented reality technology. Inside this showroom, they can tour different BMW models just like they would if they were inside a real showroom. They can even look inside the vehicle to see what it feels like to sit behind the wheel of the car. This makes it easier for consumers to conduct online research and decide which vehicle they want to purchase. Automotive consumers no longer need to waste time visiting multiple dealerships to get the information they need. Now, they can simply visit a virtual showroom online and head to the dealership once they are ready to make a purchase. Head-Up Display [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Head-Up-Display.jpg] HEAD-UP DISPLAY BMW has used augmented reality technology to design innovative head-up displays for vehicles. This display will use augmented reality technology to project important information onto the windshield. This way, the driver can quickly look at the information without taking their eyes off of the road. A head-up display may show the driver how many miles they can drive before they run out of glass or how fast they are going. It can also project directions such as digital arrows or road signs to help drivers figure out how to get to their final destination. BMW also uses this technology to provide the driver with detailed descriptions about their surroundings. For example, the head-up display may use digital pins to tell the driver more about the buildings, streets, and businesses they are passing. This would come in handy if a driver is searching for something specific such as a gas station or coffee shop. These are some of the many ways in which BMW is already using augmented reality technology. Because these efforts have been so successful, it’s safe to say BMW will continue to find new and exciting ways to incorporate this technology into their business.
The Benefits of A Virtual Auto Showroom
September 15, 2021
In the past, the average consumer’s car buying journey began in an auto showroom. This is where consumers would explore vehicles, compare models, take test drives, narrow down their options, and make purchase decisions. But times have changed–and so has the consumer car buying journey. The vast majority of consumers begin their car buying journey online rather than inside a showroom. They no longer need to visit a showroom to research their options. Instead, today’s consumers spend an average of 14 hours conducting online research in the early stages of their car buying journey. Because so much of the car buying journey has shifted online, many automotive dealers now offer virtual auto showroom tours for online consumers. Automotive consumers can use their smartphone, tablet, or computer to step inside a virtual showroom. Then, they can examine the exterior and interior of cars and learn about different models just like they would if they were in a real showroom. The showrooms are powered by either virtual or augmented reality technology, so consumers will feel like they are actually looking at the vehicles in real life. If you’re in the auto industry, you may be wondering whether you need to invest in a virtual auto showroom. Building a virtual auto showroom to showcase your inventory can benefit both your business and your customers. Here’s how: REDUCES TIME AT DEALERSHIP The amount of time an automotive consumer spends at a dealership can have a direct impact on how satisfied they are with the car buying process. In fact, research reveals that the less time the consumer spent at the dealership, the more satisfied they were with the car buying process as a whole. Right now, the average automotive consumer spends around three hours at the dealership when buying a car. However, their satisfaction starts to decline after about 90 minutes. If you want to increase customer satisfaction at your dealership, it’s important to reduce the amount of time that it takes for consumers to buy a car. To do this, start by building a virtual auto showroom. Allowing consumers to visit a virtual auto showroom can drastically reduce the amount of time they spend in your dealership. Inside a virtual auto showroom, consumers can get all of the information they need to compare their options and make a final purchase decision. Automotive consumers who use virtual showrooms may not need to visit a dealership until they know which vehicle they want and are ready to purchase it. They won’t need to talk to sales representatives, take test drives, or tour the showroom floor once they go to a dealer. This could benefit both consumers and dealers. It benefits the consumers by saving them hours of time once they arrive at the dealership. But it also benefits the dealer by increasing customer satisfaction. The Benefits of A Virtual Auto Showroom [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Lowers-Operating-Costs.jpg] LOWERS OPERATING COSTS Adding a virtual auto showroom to your website may require an initial investment, but it can actually save auto dealers money over time. Each auto showroom may house dozens of different vehicles. Auto dealers are responsible for covering the costs of transporting these vehicles to their showrooms. Once the vehicles arrive, auto dealers must pay to maintain them. Maintenance costs can add up quickly. This is because every vehicle may require a great deal of maintenance to ensure they are in pristine condition when customers arrive. Furthermore, auto dealers need to pay for a property that is large enough to showcase all of these different vehicles. The larger the space, the more it will cost to rent or own. These costs can cripple small auto dealers. But now, auto dealers of all sizes can lower operating costs by investing in a virtual auto showroom. Auto dealers that offer virtual showrooms won’t need to keep as many vehicles on-site in their showrooms. Instead, they can invite consumers to explore their inventory online using their smartphone, tablet, or computer. Reducing the number of vehicles kept on-site can save auto dealers thousands of dollars in transportation, maintenance, and other showroom operating expenses. BROADENS CUSTOMER BASE The automotive industry is incredibly competitive. Some areas have dozens of auto dealers that are all competing for the same small group of consumers. However, a virtual auto showroom will allow auto dealers to broaden their customer base by connecting with consumers located outside of their community. Automotive consumers can tour a virtual showroom even if they live hundreds of miles away from the dealership. If they find a vehicle they like, they can contact the dealer to purchase the vehicle online or over the phone so they don’t need to waste time traveling to the showroom. Being able to connect with a larger customer base can help dealers increase sales and move inventory off of the lot more quickly. Benefits of A Virtual Auto Showroom [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Gives-Customers-What-They-Want.jpg] GIVES CUSTOMERS WHAT THEY WANT As an auto dealer, you should always be on the lookout for new ways to enhance the shopping experience for consumers. One way to do this is by offering a virtual auto showroom. Automotive consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of shopping for a car online. Sixty-three percent of automotive consumers said they would consider buying their next vehicle online. Sixty-six percent of these consumers said they would be comfortable exploring different vehicles online rather than in person in a showroom. If you aren’t offering these consumers the opportunity to visit a virtual showroom, you aren’t giving them what they want. As a result, you could miss out on the opportunity to convert them into loyal customers. CREATES A BETTER SHOPPING EXPERIENCE FOR CONSUMERS If a potential customer wants to visit your showroom in person, they may need to rearrange their schedule in order to make it to your dealership during normal business hours. But visiting a virtual auto showroom is far more convenient. Your customers won’t need to wait until your dealership is open, call to make an appointment, or waste their time driving across town to visit a virtual auto showroom. They can access your virtual auto showroom from their smartphone, tablet, or computer at any time from any location. This allows consumers to start the car buying process whenever it is most convenient for them. They no longer need to work around your showroom’s schedule. The experience might be more enjoyable, too. Some automotive consumers don’t like visiting showrooms because they feel pressured by sales representatives who are eager to sell as many vehicles as possible. These aggressive sales tactics may force customers to make hasty decisions that they later regret. However, this isn’t an issue inside a virtual showroom. In a virtual showroom, consumers won’t have to deal with pushy sales representatives breathing down their neck. They can take their time exploring different models without feeling pressured to make a decision or purchase a vehicle. There’s no limit on how many vehicles they can look at, so they can spend as much time as they would like learning about their options. Benefits of A Virtual Auto Showroom [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Provides-A-Competitive-Advantage.jpg] PROVIDES A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE Having a virtual auto showroom also gives dealers a competitive advantage. If you are the only dealer in your area with a virtual auto showroom, automotive consumers who want to start the car buying process online may choose your dealership just so they can take advantage of this convenient tool. This may help you attract customers you otherwise would have lost to your competitors.
An Eye on Smart Contact Lenses
September 13, 2021
Consumers use smart technology daily. Smartphones help keep schedules straight, they allow access to friends, family and coworkers through email, social media and text messaging. Smartphones also serve as entertainment with games, videos and music accessible via just a click. Homes might include smart technology, too, with smart plugs and smart power strips that allow consumers to control their devices and appliances via the phone…or with a smart assistant. But what if eyes have smart power in the future? While smart glasses already are a reality, consumers might keep an eye on smart contact lenses that could incorporate augmented reality and more unique features. MOJO LENS: AN AUGMENTED REALITY CONTACT LENS? Move over smart glasses! Not everyone wants to select clunky headsets or glasses to experience augmented reality. Consumers might soon have the opportunity to choose contact lenses that offer augmented reality features and capabilities. Mojo Lens offers “invisible computing” that lets users experience technology without altering their appearance. Mojo Lens could be the first contact lens that offers augmented reality and immersive features. While the site doesn’t offer extensive details on features, the company does explain that “Mojo Lens even understands the activities you’re engaged in so it doesn’t disrupt or distract you.” The product could be extraordinarily promising for experiencing augmented reality without eyewear. However, the product is not yet available for sale, and the site states that “Mojo Lens availability is subject to regulatory approvals/clearance.” THE GOOGLE CONTACT LENS Back in 2014, Google was working on a contact lens that, per The Washington Post, would have been used as a device to monitor glucose levels in diabetes patients; teardrops contain glucose and this is how and why the smart contact lens would be useful as a medical-type device. So how can patients get their eyes into these lenses? Unfortunately, they can’t. The Google contact lens project was discontinued and the lenses never made it to consumers. The reason? Creating the technology in the lens to measure glucose was extremely complex. However, Science Magazine reported that Korean researchers might have created a more precise glucose-measuring lens. The lenses were tested on rabbits and showed accuracy. So perhaps contact lenses could allow diabetes patients to avoid the bloodwork that normally is used to measure glucose. SENSIMED TRIGGERFISH Smart contact lenses can help detect glaucoma and other eye issues. The Sensimed Triggerfish is a device that received FDA approval; the device features a contact lens that is worn by patients. The lens can monitor changes in the eye over a 24-hour period. This lets the doctor see beyond just a snapshot moment in the office for a more complete visual picture of eye health. According to The American Academy of Opthamology, a contact lens also may be used in the future for dispensing glaucoma medication weekly (it was created by Leo Lens Technology), while another lens was developed by researchers to dissolve in the eye to release medication over time. The Leo Lens Technology product still needs to undergo testing. MORE SMART LENSES! The American Academy of Ophthalmology included a list of smart lenses and how they may impact the future. The AAO included the Mojo Lens and Triggerfish in its roundup, and also touched upon lenses that would release antihistamines for allergy sufferers and a lens that may stop cornea melting (a disease that destroys the cornea). Another lens featured by the AAO also could help eye fatigue that is tied to staring at screens. One of the most interesting lenses featured, however, were contact lenses that could work with the smartphone, but the AAO notes that these lenses are very much a future development; don’t expect smartphone lenses to hit the market anytime soon!. Smart Contact Lenses [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Glasses-vs.-Contacts.jpg] GLASSES VS. CONTACTS: AN EYE ON THE FUTURE? Smart glasses, especially augmented reality glasses are one of the more hyped tech products. Many companies are working on this technology, and no one really knows which tech giant will unveil the first augmented reality glasses for the mainstream consumer market. But could augmented reality or smart contact lenses provide wearers a clearer vision of an augmented future? Individuals with vision impairments have often found themselves choosing between contacts or glasses. Some opt for contacts during the day and wear glasses at night to give their eyes a break. Others can’t stand to pop lenses in their eyes, while others don’t like to wear glasses. But imagine if the average consumer were forced to make this choice in how they wished to use technology, including augmented reality. Glasses or contact lenses could sync up or control smartphones. With glasses, maybe the user taps the frame to connect to their phone, but with contacts the eye movement might be used for controls (like the in-development Samsung lenses that could control a smartphone). With glasses, it’s easy to understand how the frames can connect to a virtual assistant (like Siri or Alexa, etc.); the glasses simply have microphone and speaker technology. However, contacts might be a little more difficult to create for this type of interaction. Still, anything is possible. Augmented reality glasses could include different experiences. Maybe they allow the consumer to interact with products while shopping. Perhaps controls appear in front of the wearer and users can opt to take a call via their glasses or send a text message. Maybe consumers can game with the glasses. Contact lenses displaying these same capabilities could be interesting…and intricate. Maybe the lenses sync to the smartphone to deliver augmented reality experiences. Or maybe another device connects to them. The question of contact lenses might be related to control. The user wouldn’t want to touch their eye to make choices. The eye movements can be reactive at times; imagine wearing augmented reality contact lenses and dealing with an eyelash stuck beneath it. Contact lens wearers may already know the pain and annoyance this causes. Rubbing the eye could help, but sometimes the solution requires the wearer to remove the lens. If smart contacts or augmented reality contact lenses require control to be based on eye movement or some other motion, could this be impaired by everyday habits? Sometimes lenses get dirty; maybe the wearer blinks hard. What happens to the control of the lens? What happens to the augmented reality experience? These lenses are mostly in development. Currently, there isn’t a consumer contact lens that delivers augmented reality or connects to the phone. However, if this is the future of technology, it will be interesting to see how the user controls these lenses. Maybe movement wouldn’t affect the lens experience at all. Smart Contact Lenses [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Visualizing-Augmented-Reality.jpg] VISUALIZING AUGMENTED REALITY While the future could include augmented reality or smart contact lenses, consumers might also get to experience augmented reality glasses. These will—hopefully!—drop sometime in the future. Who will launch them first, though, might be the big question. The good news for consumers is that perhaps the most convenient portal into augmented reality is one that is accessible to most individuals: the smartphone. While phones aren’t necessarily as unique as a pair of glasses or some seemingly invisible contact lenses, smartphones are mainstream. Whether consumers own an Android, Apple or Windows phone, augmented reality experiences are fairly plentiful. There are augmented reality games that mix the user’s world with graphic elements. Shopping experiences often mix in augmented reality elements, too. Before committing to a product, check and see if the store’s website or app offers a try-on experience or an augmented reality showroom. Stores can let consumers preview different products via augmented reality experiences. Looking for a new car? Check out an augmented reality showroom that lets users drop a vehicle into their environment. Walk around the car in a home, the backyard…anywhere. Users may be able to peek inside at the interior, too. Or maybe even change the paint colors! While the future of augmented reality is exciting to the eye, there are still many ways to experience this technology right now. Open up Google Play or the App Store and search ‘augmented reality.’ The apps are vast…and some are really off the wall. Make UFO videos, pretend to tape the Tooth Fairy or even interact with augmented reality spiders! Although many smart contact lenses might be pending further studies, this wearable technology could be our future. For individuals who suffer from allergies, a contact lens that releases medication could mean seasonal relief from itching and red eyes. And if a contact lens hits the market that accurately measures glucose, individuals who have been diagnosed with diabetes might get to say goodbye to blood testing. Could consumers eventually choose between augmented reality glasses or smart glasses and contact lenses? Will augmented reality experience be controlled by lenses and wearable technology? Looking to virtual reality, which relies on a headset, experiencing augmented reality might be tied to lenses—either in glasses or via contacts. No matter what the future holds, consumers might want to keep their eyes open to the possibilities. While no one can see into the future, the visions of many companies might augment reality right before our eyes.
Facebook’s Focus on Virtual and Augmented Reality
September 10, 2021
The augmented and virtual reality market is expected to grow by over $162 billion by the year 2025. Furthermore, analysts predict that there will be a 75% consumer adoption rate of these technologies within the next two years. Many companies are hoping to profit off of the expected growth of this market, including Facebook. Although Facebook is one of the biggest social media companies in the world, it has also quietly become a major player in the virtual and augmented reality industry. The company’s virtual and augmented reality efforts have ramped up over the last several years. In 2017, roughly 5% of Facebook employees were working on virtual and augmented reality projects. But now, Facebook Reality Labs, which is the company’s augmented and virtual reality division, employs about one-fifth of Facebook’s workforce. Facebook has invested heavily in augmented and virtual reality technologies. In fiscal year 2020, the company reported that 21% of its annual revenue, or about $18.45 billion, was allocated to research and development. According to the company, augmented and virtual reality efforts account for a major portion of these research and development costs. How exactly is Facebook using virtual and augmented reality? Here’s what you need to know: Oculus Virtual Reality Headset [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Oculus-Virtual-Reality-Headset.jpg] THE OCULUS VIRTUAL REALITY HEADSET One of Facebook’s first virtual reality initiatives was the acquisition of Oculus VR, a virtual reality headset manufacturer, for over $2 billion in 2014. Two years later, the company released its first virtual reality headset for consumers, the Oculus Rift. The next model was the Oculus Go, which was released in 2017. Unlike the Rift, the Oculus Go was a standalone headset and did not need to be connected to a PC to operate. A higher-end virtual reality headset, the Oculus Quest, was released in 2018. The headset connected to Oculus Touch controllers, which allowed the user to navigate in their simulated world. The headset also allowed consumers to access the Oculus Store, where they could download virtual reality games built specifically for the Oculus device. All of these Oculus models have since been discontinued, though. Only the most recent model, the Oculus Quest 2, is still in production. It is similar to the original Oculus Quest, but designed with better technology, a longer battery life, and more comfortable handheld controllers. Facebook has never revealed sales numbers for any of the Oculus models. However, the company did announce that they sold over $100 million in Oculus Quest content through the Oculus Store in the device’s first year. If the content was this successful, it’s safe to say that the device itself was a success as well. Facebook’s Focus on Virtual and Augmented Reality [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Facebook-Portal.jpg] FACEBOOK PORTAL Facebook Portal, a line of smart displays and videophones, was released in 2018. Portal devices allowed consumers to communicate with one another via video chats powered by Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. According to Facebook, Portal created a more realistic, intimate video call experience thanks to its wide-screen display. It was also designed with a Smart Camera, which would automatically rotate, pan, or zoom to follow the action and Smart Sound, which would enhance the voice of the person speaking. This created a hands-free experience and made consumers feel like they were really in the same room with their friends or family even if they were actually thousands of miles apart. Even though Portal was initially released in 2018, it exploded in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many consumers relied on Portal to connect with loved ones that they couldn’t see in person due to social distancing guidelines. As a result, Facebook announced plans to expand the capabilities of Portal in 2021. The company revealed that Portal would soon have virtual and augmented reality features that would make it easier for remote workers to connect, communicate, and collaborate. SPARK AR Spark AR is a Facebook platform that allows users to create and publish their own augmented reality effects on Facebook, Instagram, and other apps within the Facebook family. In the past, this platform was only available to a small test group of Facebook users. But now, anyone with a Facebook account can access and use Spark AR. Spark AR is designed for users of all skill levels, so you don’t need to know much about augmented reality or coding in order to take advantage of its features. The platform has dozens of different tutorials and step-by-step guides that provide all of the information you need to get started. You can either import your own digital assets or browse through the hundreds of audio files, three-dimensional objects, and other digital assets within Spark AR. You can even upload sound files to create a one-of-a-kind multi-sensory augmented reality effect. The effects you create within Spark AR can be published as Instagram and Facebook filters. Effects can also be applied to Facebook ads to create eye-catching ads that will stop users in their tracks. Facebook’s Focus on Virtual and Augmented Reality [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Augmented-Reality-Wearables.jpg] AUGMENTED REALITY WEARABLES Facebook has been in the process of developing augmented reality wearables for years. Its biggest project is a pair of augmented reality glasses, which are still in development. Facebook hasn’t released very many details about the glasses, however executives have acknowledged that the glasses will ultimately eliminate the need to use a smartphone, tablet, or computer. One executive also suggested that the glasses would use facial recognition technology to provide users with face ID security. Facebook will also release a line of “soft, wearable systems” to pair with the augmented reality glasses. For example, Facebook plans on releasing a wristband that will connect to the augmented reality glasses. The wearer will be able to use this wristband to control what is shown in front of them. The wearer might be able to select an item from a menu screen simply by tapping on their wristband, for instance. Facebook is also producing haptic gloves that will connect to the company’s augmented reality glasses. Wearing these gloves would allow the user to access a virtual screen and keyboard projected directly in front of them. Facebook has not announced a release date for its augmented reality glasses or other wearable accessories. But these products have the potential to completely disrupt the virtual and augmented reality industry. FACEBOOK HORIZON Horizon is another virtual reality product developed by Facebook Reality Labs. Unlike its other products, Horizon is a virtual reality universe where users can create their own environments, interact with other virtual players, or just walk around and explore their simulated world. Players who enter the Horizon virtual universe can design their own avatars. Then, they can jump to different locations within the simulated world using Telepod portals. If a player gets lost or confused, they can rely on one of the local guides, known as Horizon Locals, for help. The game even allows players to establish personal space boundaries to prevent other virtual avatars from getting too close for comfort. If a player starts to feel overwhelmed, they can quickly tap on a button to escape the public world and enter a private virtual oasis. This game is designed for users of all skill levels, so players won’t need coding skills to start constructing their own virtual world. FACEBOOK ACQUISITIONS There’s no telling what Facebook will do next with augmented and virtual reality technologies in the future. However, a string of recent acquisitions indicate that Facebook is fully committed to the world of virtual and augmented reality. Two of Facebook’s earliest acquisitions were Pebbles Interfaces and The Eye Tribe, which occurred in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Pebbles Interfaces develops sensor systems, computer vision, depth-sensing systems, and other technologies whereas The Eye Tribe produces eye-tracking technologies. All of these technologies are used to create virtual and augmented reality experiences. Facebook then began acquiring virtual and augmented reality gaming companies, including Ready At Dawn and Beat Games, which are two leaders in the extended reality gaming industry. Facebook also acquired two other gaming companies, Downpour Interactive and BigBox VR. All of these acquisitions occurred over a short period of five or six years, which indicates that Facebook is moving full steam ahead in its quest to dominate the world of virtual and augmented reality. Facebook’s Focus on Virtual and Augmented Reality [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/The-Metaverse.jpg] THE METAVERSE During a recent earnings call, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed that the company would focus on building a “metaverse” in the future. The term “metaverse” has become somewhat of a poorly defined buzzword in tech circles. In general, it is defined as a shared online space where physical, augmented, and virtual realities meet. However, Zuckerberg described his vision of a metaverse as “a virtual environment where you can be present with people in digital spaces.” In other words, it would allow users to experience the internet by being inside it rather than looking at it through a computer screen. Zuckerberg went on to say that the creation of a metaverse could greatly benefit creators, artists, remote workers, and people located in remote areas who would otherwise not have access to educational or career opportunities. He even said that if done correctly, a metaverse could serve as a teleport device. Zuckerberg may face a number of obstacles in his quest to build a metaverse, including competition and government regulations. But for now, Zuckerberg believes that Facebook is more than capable of transforming from a social media platform to a metaverse company.
Could Future Apple Glasses Upgrade Everything with Augmented Reality Interactions?
September 6, 2021
Tom’s Guide recently posted a story referencing a Patently Apple update that detailed a new patent application (this one, however, is known as a “continuation in part” application) from Apple about potential future Apple glasses. Tom’s Guide explained that the patent application described how the glasses could upgrade surfaces into touchscreens. Keep in mind that patent applications don’t necessarily mean that the technology is going to drop. However, it’s fun to speculate about the specs related to future Apple glasses. Could future Apple glasses upgrade everything with augmented reality interactions? How would this look? Let’s peek into the potential but remember that patent applications don’t mean that this will become reality. Apple hasn’t announced anything. THE CONTINUATION-IN-PART (CIP) PATENT Patently Apple delved into the details about the CIP patent, which isn’t necessarily a new patent but expounds on the original patent. Law firm Perkins Coie explained on its site that “A CIP application permits a patent applicant to add new subject matter to the existing disclosure of the parent application while retaining the priority date for claims based on the original disclosure. The claims of the CIP can be directed to the new subject matter, the old subject matter or a combination of the two.” Back in 2015, Patently Apple reported that Apple had acquired the company Metaio, which created the thermal touch technology that is described in the patent. Patently Apple explained that infrared and standard cameras can add info to surfaces. When an individual touches the surface, this leaves a “thermal signature.” The site further detailed that combining the augmented reality overlay info with the signature could transform almost anything into a touch screen. Is this a bit complicated? Yes! But the potential for future augmented reality experiences could be amazing. HOW COULD GLASSES WORK IN THE REAL WORLD? Apple augmented reality glasses have been the story of speculation for quite some time. Apple remains fairly mum about the glasses. Facebook and other tech giants also have been eyeing augmented reality with interest, too. And, of course, the talk of other branded augmented reality glasses also has been the topic of interest. The reality of any new consumer-focused augmented reality glasses, however, is that no one knows what they could incorporate. So speculating about the features on glasses that haven’t been formally announced is merely just that…speculation. With the potential for cameras to overlay digital graphics and the power of touch to provide a type of heat signature means that augmented reality could possibly be incorporated nearly anywhere. Tom’s Guide mentioned the idea of the user touching a magazine and then interacting with it via the glasses. However, the potential goes beyond print. Even daily objects could include touch screens. Imagine just sitting in the living room, looking at the light and then just touching the light via augmented reality features to control it…maybe dim it or turn it off. While phones can allow users to control different appliances and household features, wearing glasses that provide similar functions would mean less reliance on the phone. Yet, if thermal touch was necessary to control items or to incorporate a touchscreen, would every item of the future rely on an initial fingerprint? Future Apple Glasses [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Lets-Go-Shopping.jpg] LET’S GO SHOPPING! Imagine using augmented reality glasses to shop. The example of looking at a magazine and interacting with it could be a new way to shop. Ads could bring up a buy now option. Or suddenly users could be prompted to enter the online store from the advertisement. Think about everyday products. Imagine touching a lipstick that was near the end of the tube and having augmented reality glasses showing where to buy the hue. Or maybe allowing the user to buy the new lipstick by showing a touchscreen option on the product. Would physical stores be augmented, too? Maybe augmented reality glasses would show inventory for each item in the store. Or if the item was sold out, the glasses would bring up other locations that had the item in stock. Augmented Cars [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Augmented-Cars.jpg] AUGMENTED CARS…AND HOMES! What about cars and homes? Would these include all augmented reality features? If suddenly a car’s paint was nicked, maybe the driver could use augmented reality glasses to find the exact color paint touch up. What if drivers lift the hood to interact with all parts of the vehicle? That is, maybe the computer of the car could interact with the glasses to show issues. This could make finding the issues with a vehicle easier for the owner. Again, though, touch might be the prerequisite for control. Maybe the user touches the hood of the car, for example, and a touchscreen of information appears. Who knows how this could work. But perhaps the car interacts with the glasses. Imagine an augmented reality home. There are already homes that rely on the Internet of Things (IoT), but what if all homes of the future spoke or interacted with augmented reality glasses? The walls could showcase touch screens. Or individual appliances. Maybe the table becomes an interactive screen. Could glasses showcase a range of takeout options via the table? Or maybe touching a table shows grocery stores that users could shop. Perhaps the refrigerator, when touched, shows similar data. Many new models of refrigerators include smart screens but perhaps these are replaced by augmented reality features. The glasses might show that milk is a little low. Or maybe the refrigerator becomes the hub that takes the homeowner to augmented reality grocery options. AUGMENTED…JUST A LITTLE While major augmented reality features incorporated via cars and homes with the help of glasses could one day be a future reality, the technology most likely would start off a bit less grandiose. The idea that magazines could be interactive might be the most logical reality. What if even author bylines in magazines and print publications were augmented. Glasses could display a bio or the author’s other topics. Maybe users could explore info within a story or book or newspaper article. But, again, the speculation of glasses is based on patent applications for Apple and for other tech companies…rumors. Augmented reality might be the future. But how augmented our reality will become is the biggest question. In theory, everything could perhaps become interactive. Again, we’re already seeing this with smart screens on appliances and apps that hook into other appliances. Will technology take convenience to an augmented reality? Maybe the bigger question is who will be the first to introduce a consumer-driven pair of augmented reality glasses? While there are some options on the market, these are mostly designed for enterprise use. Although consumers can buy augmented reality glasses with certain capabilities, they don’t interact with a magazine for augmented shopping experiences. The glasses that many consumers might be waiting for to hit the market might be designed for unique shopping experiences or other interactive functions. While the data from Apple’s patent can point to possibilities, until a pair of Apple glasses is officially announced no one really knows what features the future will hold. ENJOYING AUGMENTED REALITY NOW Augmented reality glasses might be the future hope for consumers who love this technology, but augmented reality experiences can be discovered across the internet and via apps. The best part? Users don’t need glasses or any expensive technology to enjoy these augmented reality experiences! Whether users own an Apple, Android or Windows device, there might be unique augmented reality experiences to explore. Many apps are accessible via both Apple and Android devices. Going shopping for cosmetics? Check out try-on experiences via brands or stores like Ulta. Try on lipsticks, eyeshadows, etc. Preview before hitting buy! Stores also can let users move augmented reality furniture into their room or check out new paint hues without swiping any colors on permanently. Augmented reality takes the mystery out of a purchase. Not interested in using augmented reality for shopping? Use it to preview cars! Visit sites like RelayCars to check out different makes and models and preview them in a real-world environment. Switch out paint colors, look inside and walk around the car, too. Augmented reality can even be used to help consumers research when shopping for cars online. Augmented reality games also let users play in an augmented world. These games require access to a device camera to show the user’s environment. Then graphics or characters are augmented into the world. The most popular augmented reality game might be Pokemon GO. Use augmented reality to find out where all the cute Pokemon are hiding, capture them…then do battle. Of course, augmented reality also is found everyday…in the daily drive. Newer car models incorporate augmented reality into the backup cameras or GPS functions. Augmented reality data can show turning areas when it’s time to turn onto a new road. Or maybe just show the view behind the car to check for any obstacles. Who knows which major tech company will release consumer-driven augmented reality glasses…or even what these glasses will feature. While patent applications could point to clues, until Apple—or any other company—makes an official announcement, the future is still shrouded in an augmented mystery.
Snap’s Acquisition of Vertebrae Could Transform Online Shopping
September 3, 2021
The Verge recently reported that Snap—the parent company of Snapchat—acquired Vertebrae, a company that creates 3D models and augmented reality experiences for online retail. Snapchat already offers augmented reality features for its creators, and some businesses have used Snapchat’s lenses for augmented reality enhanced shopping experiences. However, the acquisition of Vertebrae could place Snap in a very unique position in leveraging these tools and features to businesses that wish to create a more immersive shopping experience for their customers. And Snap’s acquisition of Vertebrae could transform online shopping…here’s how! WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT VERTEBRAE Vertebrae’s website opens up a glimpse of what the company can bring to Snap’s augmented reality bottom line. Yes, Snapchat already allows businesses to access augmented reality features (including a ‘try-on lens’). However, Vertebrae takes these high-tech experiences to another level. The company creates 3D models of products for customers (i.e. businesses). This allows shoppers to not just view products as photos but to turn them around and view them at different angles. Vertebrae also can create unique try-on experiences via Space AR and Face AR. With SpaceAR, users can check fit (think furniture). With Face AR, users can virtually try on products. Face AR could include cosmetics, sunglasses, hair color preview, etc. The company has worked with Toyota, Tenth Street, CB2 and others. In fact, Vertebrae helped create the augmented reality experience that allowed Toyota shoppers to view vehicles in their environment. This augmented reality car showroom of sorts without downloading an app. Instead, users could access the experience via a banner ad. AUGMENTED REALITY AND THE CONSUMER SHOPPING EXPERIENCE Augmented reality experiences can heighten the user experience. When shopping online, consumers can use augmented reality to explore products beyond static photos. With these experiences, consumers can enter a unique showroom experience in their own home. Or the face may become the canvas to preview products. Companies have deployed augmented reality shopping experiences in a variety of ways. For example, Gucci used Snapchat to create an augmented reality try on experience for some of its most popular shoes. It also deployed a virtual shoe that could only be purchased via the Wanna or Gucci app; users could post photos of themselves wearing the unique virtual shoe, too! Cosmetics brands like Chanel have used augmented reality to let users try on products without leaving home. The augmented reality experience requires access to a camera to show the user’s face. Then products can be chosen to preview. Eyeshadow or lipstick appears on the user’s image…a bit like magic. Ulta’s GLAMlab can even show multiple products at once. This is an easy way for consumers to determine if a product suits their complexion, their style or their personal taste. Warby Parker even lets users try on frames via augmented reality to find the best shapes and styles for their unique face structure. Why are these experiences so useful for consumers? Augmented reality lets consumers take the guesswork out of their purchase. In the past, buying cosmetics or even ordering paint colors online could be hit or miss. Would the color or product actually look good? Shoppers might have received their purchase, and tried it on only to realize it was a huge miss. Maybe the lipstick really clashed with the complexion. Perhaps swiping the paint hue on the wall didn’t showcase a robin’s egg blue but really something far more electric…and much too bold for the room. Shopping went online during the pandemic for many consumers. But online shopping isn’t a new fad. Online retail has been around for years. And many shoppers enjoy the convenience of ordering products from home. The problem with online shopping, however, might be related to the barriers in exploring the products. In the early days of online shopping, many stores or businesses were only able to show pictures of items via their website. Maybe clothes were displayed on models. But there were limitations on how customers could explore the products; photo slideshows or photos of models might have been the only preview options. Now, though, 3D models of products can let users explore the item from all angles. And maybe augmented reality even lets the item appear in the environment. This means that shoppers aren’t just looking at a sofa; instead, augmented reality experiences let them place it in a room. Now, homeowners can see if a new piece of furniture matches the room…or fits the space. Augmented Reality and Car Shopping [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Augmented-Reality-and-Car-Shopping.jpg] AUGMENTED REALITY AND CAR SHOPPING Vertebrae helped create the augmented reality experience for Toyota that was designed a bit like an augmented reality showroom. These experiences are becoming more prominent in the automotive industry, and this might be because even car shoppers have been forced to shop online during the pandemic. Now online shopping might be crucial to staying competitive. In fact, Cox Automotive reports that online shopping (i.e. “digital retailing”) “…is key to a long-term winning strategy—with 75% of dealers acknowledging that they won’t be able to survive without it.” Even before Covid, though, car shoppers were researching via the internet. Back in 2018, Cox Automotive’s 2018 Car Buyer Journey Study noted that “…car buyers spend 60 percent of their time online, and more than three quarters (78 percent) of car buyers use third-party sites, like Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book.” While third-party sites can provide data regarding car prices and other details, augmented reality experiences can allow customers to virtually explore vehicles. Augmented reality experiences, apps and sites can possibly minimize the time shoppers spend at the dealership, too. While shopping for a new car used to include visiting several dealerships, strolling through the lot and looking at different models, the online augmented reality experience can provide a similar experience. Using augmented reality, shoppers can’t physically touch or interact with the vehicle, but they can explore it visually in 3D. Using the camera from a smartphone or tablet, users show the environment where they wish to preview a vehicle. The consumer can then drop the car into this environment. Augmented reality auto showrooms and experiences can let users walk around the car, look inside, see the car from different vantage points or even change the paint color. The consumer can use these experiences as a means to explore different vehicles, too. Some augmented reality showrooms aren’t focused on one brand, but they allow users to preview many different makes and models. This can be helpful for shoppers who are in the beginning of their new car hunt. Maybe they don’t know what they want, but these sites or apps can let them explore many different options. Virtual Reality Shopping [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Virtual-Reality-Shopping.jpg] WHAT ABOUT VIRTUAL REALITY SHOPPING? While augmented reality experiences for shopping could be the future of the online retail experience, technology could bring surprises. Many companies are aiming to create consumer-driven augmented reality glasses, and the buzz around these glasses have existed for quite some time. If the glasses become a reality, could they integrate augmented reality shopping experiences? Would glasses show apps for different stores and bring up unique augmented reality experiences to preview products? Of course, augmented reality also could be bumped by virtual reality. Currently, virtual reality headsets can be purchased at a semi-affordable price. While the buzz around augmented reality is hot, virtual reality can’t be ignored. However, virtual reality shopping experiences would require retailers to create virtual environments accessible via headsets. So perhaps it would become like a virtual retail space. Virtual reality could allow users to have their own personalized avatars or characters that appear in the realm. Maybe they include the exact measurements of the individual. Of course, augmented reality could create something similar, too. While future shopping experiences could incorporate augmented or virtual reality, right now augmented reality experiences have been a popular way to enhance the user experience and provide a way for users to explore products at home. Try-on experiences show products on the face (like swiping on blush), the walls (paint!), or even the space (dropping furniture in the living room!). These experiences also include augmented reality showrooms that let users preview automobiles. Snap’s acquisition of Vertebrae positions the company to create and leverage more immersive experiences. While Snapchat lenses can allow users to enter augmented reality experiences, perhaps the integration of Vertebrae’s expertise allows Snap to take online shopping or app-based shopping to a new level. No matter how Vertebrae’s technological ingenuity is utilized, though, the future of shopping might be immersive. After all, when users have the choice between previewing products in two-dimensional photos or using augmented reality to view products in 3D or even try them on, the choice might be obvious. As Generation Z begins to position itself as the most coveted demographic for retailers, these immersive experiences may be vital to the shopping experience. Gen Z has never known life without technology, the internet and social media. AR Insider reported that 40 percent of Zoomers used AR lenses via social media. The site also cited a National Research Group study that found that more than half of Zoomers stated that AR was “very important” for both social and entertainment. AR Insider’s headline asked: “Will Gen-Z be the AR Generation?” Perhaps companies pivot to augmented reality experiences to cater to this generation. And maybe all generations may be forced to embrace the AR future.
How is VR Used By Auto Manufacturers?
September 1, 2021
One of the keys to achieving success in the competitive automotive industry is embracing new technologies. Over the last several decades, the automotive industry has evolved as a result of keyless ignitions, hybrid and electric engines, collision avoidance systems, and other innovative technologies. But another technology has recently taken the automotive industry by storm: virtual reality. Virtual reality is used to transport users to a simulated environment, where they are free to explore and interact with their virtual surroundings. Many of the top automotive manufacturers in the world are using virtual reality technology to remain competitive. How is VR used in the auto industry? Here’s a look at how five of the leading auto manufacturers are using virtual reality technology: VR Used By Auto Manufacturers [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Ford.jpg] FORD Ford’s facilities were temporarily closed last year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the company’s executives did not want this temporary shutdown to impact the vehicle development process. To avoid this problem, Ford employees began to use virtual reality technology to design new vehicles in a virtual design studio. Designers wear virtual reality headsets and use handheld controllers to draw, rotate, and resize three-dimensional digital models . The entire design team can visit the virtual design studio to inspect, evaluate, and provide feedback on digital designs. This allowed the design team to continue to work on the development of new vehicles while Ford facilities were temporarily closed. Being able to collaborate remotely isn’t the only benefit of using virtual reality to design new vehicles. Building digital models with virtual reality eliminates the need to create expensive, time-consuming clay prototypes. It also makes it easier for designers to edit designs based on feedback from their peers. Instead of building a new prototype after every round of edits, the designers can now visit the virtual design studio to modify the digital model in a matter of minutes. This helps Ford speed up the process of designing new vehicles. In fact, Ford reports that using virtual reality technology can reduce design time from weeks to hours. Because of these benefits, Ford decided to continue using virtual reality to design new vehicles even after the company’s facilities had reopened. VOLKSWAGEN In 2018, Volkswagen became one of the first automotive manufacturers to use virtual reality technology for employee training purposes. The company revealed that it would provide virtual reality training to over 10,000 employees. The training courses covered a wide range of topics, including product assembly, new hire training, and even customer service. This technology allowed Volkswagen employees to train at their own pace to ensure they understood the material. It also made it possible for Volkswagen to train large groups of employees remotely. Plus, Volkswagen can continue to update its training program by uploading new content to the virtual reality system. If Volkswagen plans on opening new production facilities, the company could now use virtual reality technology to fully train employees before the facility even opens. This way, employees would be ready to begin work right away. Virtual reality training is especially beneficial for assembly line workers. Making a mistake on the assembly line can be costly and dangerous. But thanks to virtual reality technology, assembly line workers can train in a virtual environment where they can safely learn from their mistakes. This could create a safer working environment and reduce the cost of employee errors. VR Used By Auto Manufacturers [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Toyota.jpg] TOYOTA Toyota has used virtual reality technology in several different ways. Several years ago, Toyota revealed its TeenDrive365 driving simulator at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. This driving simulator is designed to help teenage drivers understand the dangers of distracted driving. To use it, teen drivers must put on an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. Putting on this headset will immediately transport the driver to a simulated environment where they are behind the wheel of a Toyota driving down a busy street. As they drive down the virtual street, they will encounter various types of distractions such as loud noises, talkative passengers, and text messages on their virtual smartphone. This will test the driver’s ability to tune out distractions they may face when they are behind the wheel in the real world. Toyota is also in the process of developing a virtual reality navigation system specifically for self-driving vehicles. The company filed a patent for a system that would use virtual reality to show drivers the route that their self-driving vehicle intended on taking. This would give drivers of autonomous vehicles the opportunity to adjust their route if necessary. FIAT CHRYSLER Fiat Chrysler is another automotive manufacturer that has benefited from using virtual reality technology. The company’s engineering and manufacturing teams use virtual reality technology to design virtual layouts of new production facilities. Similar to Ford’s virtual design process, Fiat Chrysler’s virtual design process allows employees from around the world to collaborate on these projects. Employees can use virtual reality headsets and handheld controllers to visit the virtual design studio, see the layout, provide feedback, or change the design by moving equipment or other structures around. It only takes a few minutes to make changes to the design, so the teams can work together to quickly finalize new layouts. Designing a virtual layout helps Fiat Chrysler’s engineering and manufacturing teams identify and address potential issues ahead of time. It also helps the engineering and manufacturing teams manipulate the layout of a facility to ensure it is designed for maximum efficiency. Using virtual reality to finalize production facility layouts has allowed Fiat Chrysler to streamline the design process, reduce costs, and improve the quality and safety of the manufacturing process. VR Used By Auto Manufacturers [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Audi.jpg] AUDI Audi has found several exciting ways to use virtual reality technology. In 2017, Audi began using virtual reality to enhance the customer consultation experience in dealerships. Audi customers could customize a vehicle and then put on a virtual reality headset to explore a three-dimensional, realistic model of the vehicle in a simulated environment. This virtual reality experience allowed customers to visualize what their custom vehicle would look like before making a purchase decision. Audi has also used virtual reality technology to enhance the in-car experience for passengers. The company introduced the Holoride, which is an in-car virtual reality experience, at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2019. To enjoy Holoride, passengers must wear a virtual reality headset. The headset will transport them to a simulated environment where they can play games and pass the time until they reach their final destination. The movement in the simulated world is in sync with the movement of the vehicle. For example, if the car turns left, the passenger will also turn left in their simulated environment. Syncing these movements makes the experience more entertaining and realistic. Audi’s research also shows that the synchronization reduces motion sickness. This is one of the first times that virtual reality has been used to entertain the passengers of a vehicle. Using virtual reality in this manner could drastically change the in-car experience for all passengers. THE FUTURE OF VIRTUAL REALITY IN THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY These aren’t the only ways in which virtual reality technology is used in the automotive industry. Automotive manufacturers and dealers also use this virtual reality to support virtual automotive showrooms and virtual test drives. This allows automotive companies to cater to consumers who want to shop for a vehicle from the comfort of their own home. There’s no telling how virtual reality will be used by auto manufacturers in the future, but it’s safe to say that this technology could potentially disrupt the industry.
Apple vs. Microsoft: Who Will Augment Reality?
August 30, 2021
Bloomberg reported that the rift between Apple and Microsoft has been stoked once again. Gamers know that Epic Games (creator of Fortnight) took issue with Apple’s App Store and decided to let users stream games through xCloud (a Microsoft product)…essentially bypassing the App Store rules. Macrumors reported, though, that Apple reversed course. Unfortunately for Apple, Microsoft decided to launch the streaming service online. The two companies might also be competitive when looking at an augmented reality future. In the Apple vs. Microsoft battle, who will do augmented reality for consumers first? Or will neither company reign supreme? MICROSOFT: HOLOLENS AND AUGMENTED REALITY Microsoft offers both virtual reality and augmented reality headsets. Hololens is the company’s augmented reality headset that is popular for enterprise use. Businesses can use Hololens for different functions—maybe for improving downtime in the manufacturing industry, for other training purposes or even for virtual teaching (for the education sector). Microsoft considers Hololens as “mixed reality.” The average consumer, however, is likely not going to invest in Hololens. The price point is more than $4,000. Hololens also isn’t a consumer-driven augmented reality headset. This isn’t equipment that will interact with an augmented reality store or other interactive experiences that consumers might demand. What Hololens shows, though, is that Microsoft has already pioneered a type of augmented reality glasses or headset. While the headset is enterprise-focused, could it be possible to use this technology to create something more consumer-centric? Perhaps. In an analysis, Macrumors noted that Microsoft is “pursuing a more hardware-based strategy for augmented reality while Apple focuses, at least for now, on the underlying technologies that will eventually drive future experiences.” But is Microsoft looking at the consumer for an augmented reality future? The answer might be ‘yes.’ VR Focus cited the Wall Street Journal’s interview with Alex Kipman, and the future could include Hololens for consumers! Wall Street Journal reporter Joanna Stern (who interviewed Kipman) tweeted: “And finally, I spoke with @akipman about Microsoft’s AR / MR efforts. He confirmed Microsoft is definitely going to make a consumer AR headset.” APPLE’S AUGMENTED REALITY GLASSES The rumors have been fierce about Apple’s augmented reality glasses. They should be on the horizon. Yet, nothing definitive has been released by the company related to an official product drop. While the consumer can look at Microsoft’s Hololens and understand a little bit about how a consumer-driven headset could work, the Apple glasses are shrouded in a bit of mystery. There are reports from Patently Apple that hint at where augmented reality could go for the consumer product. But even as Patently Apple explains, a patent application doesn’t necessarily mean the product is definitive. However, Apple likely isn’t going to be screaming from an augmented reality mountaintop about technology that’s in the works. While rumors always abound about the next Apple product, Apple will likely not take a bite out of any official announcement until everything about the product is ready to go. It’s possible that Apple could be playing with different options, features and interactive concepts or even designs. But will Apple be the first to unveil consumer-driven glasses? Or will another tech player bump both Microsoft and Apple to take the innovative lead? FACEBOOK’S AUGMENTED REALITY GLASSES Facebook will launch new glasses soon. The Facebook x Ray-Ban collaboration has been teased via YouTube. Unfortunately, the teaser video doesn’t give consumers a precise indication about what the new glasses will look like…or what their features will entail. One thing is certain, however. Facebook x Ray-Ban glasses will not include augmented reality features. So consumers shouldn’t get their hopes up that the new cool Ray-Bans will integrate augmented reality. Yet, Facebook is still very much a contender for the race to an augmented reality future. Facebook Reality Labs is dedicated to augmented and virtual reality. Reading over the Facebook Reality Labs homepage, it is made very clear that augmented reality glasses are a goal. The site states: “…we’re hard at work to bring the vision of lightweight, stylish AR glasses to life.” Project Aria is part of Facebook Reality Labs. The project incorporates augmented reality glasses, but these aren’t for the consumer. Instead, researchers wear them to gather information about the environment. Could these glasses be the beginning of capturing and creating a metaverse for future developments? Facebook notes that the glasses can record audio and visual data, and the glasses for Project Aria are not a prototype of a future product. It’s clear that Facebook is in the race to an augmented reality future. But so, too, are Google and Snapchat, too! AMAZON’S SMART GLASSES Amazon also could be another contender in the augmented reality race. The company launched a pair of smart glasses—Amazon Echo Frames. The frames do not integrate augmented reality features, but they do sync up with Alexa. Wearing the glasses allows users to interact with Alexa. The downside? The glasses are NOT compatible with Apple devices…only Android. SPECTACLES BY SNAP Spectacles by Snap are not augmented reality consumer glasses, but they are still worth mentioning. The glasses can record audio and video. And everything is snapped in 3D! Of course, the glasses pair up with Snapchat. The glasses let users create immersive content via Snapchat, but they probably aren’t meant for the average consumer. And while they can create augmented reality experiences to share via Snapchat, they really are not the augmented reality consumer-driven glasses. So users can’t shop via these glasses, and they won’t interact with appliances or anything that consumers might be eyeing for new augmented reality glasses. Google’s Augmented Reality [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Googles-Augmented-Reality.jpg] GOOGLE’S AUGMENTED REALITY Google Glass headsets are not priced for the consumer (they’re nearly $1,000). The Verge explains that these are for developers or enterprise use. And while Google allowed consumers to buy Glass back in 2014, they weren’t a real consumer success. However, that doesn’t mean Google won’t pivot to a pair of consumer glasses. While nothing has been announced, could Google jump into the augmented reality race? Maybe they already have. Google offers a range of augmented reality experiences. So it wouldn’t be shocking if the company decided to develop a new consumer product. Google Search AR is filled with augmented reality animals, anime characters, cars and who knows what else. Google has never released a list of all its Search AR objects. So consumers could stumble upon something new when they search! For Android devices, Google also has dropped Floom, which lets users dig a tunnel to the other side of the world. The company also created a social distancing augmented reality experience that draws an augmented reality circle showing proper social distancing. Other augmented reality experiences also are in the works that could augment photos. Downloading the Google app also lets users access other augmented reality. Visit Easter Island. Or check out the views from the top of buildings like the Eiffel Tower. Google has developed augmented reality experiences that can be accessed from phones and tablets. And while experiences like Floom and Sodar can only be used by those with Android devices, Google’s app can be downloaded via iOS and Search AR is available on Apple phones, too. Augmented Reality Future [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Augmented-Reality-Future.jpg] WINNING THE RACE TO AN AUGMENTED REALITY FUTURE? Which company will be the first to launch consumer-driven augmented reality glasses? While the competition between Microsoft and Apple might be burning a bit hotter, they aren’t the only two contenders. Facebook Reality Labs is looking at ways to make augmented reality glasses a reality. After the Facebook x Ray-Ban launch, will consumers be introduced to a new pair of augmented reality glasses? No one knows. Snapchat also could be a contender for augmented reality glasses. While its Spectacles aren’t augmented reality glasses for consumers, Snap recently acquired Vertebrae, a company that specializes in 3D models and augmented reality experiences for online retail. Speculation has been brewing about Apple augmented reality glasses. While many might assume these could be the next big drop for Apple, nothing has been announced. A consumer-driven Hololens has been announced as a future product, though…and this has been confirmed by the Wall Street Journal. Beyond the understanding that it will happen—eventually!—the look and the exact features are a mystery. Facebook also hasn’t made any announcement about augmented reality glasses; in fact, consumers don’t even know what the Ray-Ban collaboration will look like or what features to expect. What is clear when looking through a futuristic lens is that augmented reality is on the horizon for consumers. How much power will it have over the consumer experience might remain a mystery. Maybe augmented reality will let consumers access immersive shopping experiences or interact with our homes. Maybe augmented reality will just heighten experiences for games or retail. No one knows. And now we can only speculate as to which tech giant will cross the finish line wearing the lenses of an augmented reality future.
How the Car Dealer Showroom Experience Has Changed
August 27, 2021
In 1897, William Metziger built the world’s first automotive showroom in Detroit. Since this time, automotive showrooms have played a major role in the car buying process. Inside showrooms, consumers were given the opportunity to connect with automotive brands, explore different vehicles, and learn about the latest and greatest automotive technologies. Automotive consumers typically used the information they acquired inside a showroom to make informed purchase decisions. In other words, visiting a dealer’s showroom was an irreplaceable part of the car buying process in the past. But that’s all changed thanks to recent technological advances. Here’s what you should know about the evolving car dealer showroom experience: HOW HAS THE CAR BUYING PROCESS CHANGED? Consumers routinely buy beauty products, clothing, books, electronics, and other items online. But until recently, the automotive industry was largely unaffected by the shift to online shopping. Over the last several years, though, the car buying process has shifted online. Some consumers have started to complete the entire car buying process online. In 2018, only about 1% of car buyers purchased their vehicle online. But just several years later, about one in 10 car buyers are purchasing vehicles online. Others, however, have simply shifted certain aspects of the car buying process online, even though they complete the actual transaction in-person at a dealership. For example, researching different vehicles is an important step in the consumer car buying journey. In the past, automotive consumers conducted this research by visiting an average of five dealerships before making a purchase. However, the vast majority of automotive consumers now conduct this research online rather than at a dealer. Today’s automotive consumer spends about 13 to 14 hours conducting research online before deciding which vehicle to purchase. As a result, automotive consumers now only visit one to two dealerships before making a purchase decision. Car Dealer Showroom [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Car-Dealer-Showroom-Experience.jpg] HOW THE SHIFT TO DIGITAL IMPACTED THE CAR DEALER SHOWROOM EXPERIENCE The shift to digital has impacted nearly every aspect of the car buying process, including the traditional car dealer showroom visit. Here are some of the many ways in which it has impacted the car dealer showroom experience: * Car Buying Process No Longer Begins In A Showroom * Videos Drive Foot Traffic * Virtual Showrooms * Consumers Spend Less Time At Dealerships * At-Home Test Drives CAR BUYING PROCESS NO LONGER BEGINS IN A SHOWROOM A consumer’s car buying journey used to begin inside a car dealer’s showroom. The consumer would visit the showroom to consult with a sales representative, learn about different vehicles, compare their options, and make a purchase decision. But the car buying journey now rarely begins inside a dealership–it starts online. Today’s automotive consumers start the car buying process by visiting websites to research their options. About 78% of automotive consumers visit at least two websites, and 56% of these consumers start on third-party websites. Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader are two of the most popular third-party sites that consumers visit during the car buying journey. Only 17% of automotive consumers visit a dealership website at the start of their car buying journey. However, one-third of consumers say that a dealership website is the last website they visit prior to making a purchase decision. This means that consumers who visit dealer websites are most likely at the end of the sales cycle, which means they are in the final stages of making a purchase decision. All of this occurs before the consumer ever steps foot inside an auto dealer’s showroom. Car Dealer Showroom [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Consumers-Spend-Less-Time-At-Dealerships.jpg] CONSUMERS SPEND LESS TIME AT DEALERSHIPS In the past, sales representatives were given ample time to sell to consumers who walked into their showroom. These sales representatives played an active role in helping the consumer decide which vehicle to purchase. However, the shift to digital has impacted the role of the showroom sales representative. Because consumers are completing many of the car buying steps online, the amount of time that automotive consumers spend at dealerships has declined over the last several years. In 2020, it hit an all-time low of two hours and thirty-five minutes. This may seem like a lot of time, but most of it is not spent inside the showroom. It’s estimated that about 90 minutes of this time is spent discussing financing options and completing paperwork. Roughly 25 minutes is spent finalizing the terms of a trade-in deal. This leaves very little time for a showroom sales representative to actually sell to the consumer. Sales representatives often aren’t even given an opportunity to sell to consumers who visit their showrooms. This is because many of today’s automotive consumers don’t visit a dealership in-person until they have concluded their online research and decided which vehicle they want to buy. They show up at the dealership ready to complete the transaction, so sales representatives don’t have a chance to do their sales pitch. VIDEOS DRIVE FOOT TRAFFIC Because the car buying process no longer begins in a showroom, dealers must invest heavily in marketing efforts designed to drive foot traffic. There are many different automotive marketing strategies, but research shows that video marketing might be one of the most effective ways to drive foot traffic to car dealer showrooms. Online videos may strongly influence an automotive consumer during their car buying journey. Three-fourths of auto consumers say that watching online videos has influenced their shopping habits or purchase decisions. Furthermore, 40% of car shoppers who watched online videos to research their options said these videos introduced them to cars they otherwise weren’t aware of or considering. However, video does more than just help automotive consumers discover new vehicles and narrow down their options. It also drives traffic to showrooms. About 60% of car shoppers who watched online videos said they visited a dealer or dealer’s website as a result of the videos they watched. Fiat Chrysler recently used video marketing to promote its annual sale, the Jeep Celebration. The company tracked foot traffic at over 300 dealers to measure the impact of its video marketing campaign. The results revealed that the video marketing campaign attracted more than 50,000 customers to showrooms in a six-week period. The results of this campaign clearly indicate that dealers can successfully drive more traffic to their showrooms by focusing on video marketing efforts. Car Dealer Showroom [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Virtual-Showrooms.jpg] VIRTUAL SHOWROOMS The car dealer showroom experience may have changed, but this doesn’t mean it’s going away any time soon. Many automotive companies have responded to the shift to shopping online by launching virtual car dealer showrooms. A virtual showroom is an automotive showroom powered by augmented or virtual reality. Auto consumers can typically enter a virtual showroom using their computer, tablet, or smartphone. Once inside, they can explore vehicles just like they would if they were actually in a car dealer’s showroom. They can rotate a vehicle to see it from every angle, enlarge the vehicle to get a closer look at it, adjust the settings to see the vehicle in different colors, and even step inside to examine the interior. A virtual showroom allows consumers to get the same car dealer showroom experience from the comfort of their home. It also helps them complete another step of the car buying journey from home rather than inside a dealership. This will appeal to consumers who want to complete as much of the car buying journey online as possible. In fact, two-thirds of consumers say they are comfortable touring vehicles entirely or partially online before making a purchase decision. AT-HOME TEST DRIVES Automotive consumers used to visit showrooms not only to explore different vehicles, but also to test drive them. However, car dealers are now giving consumers the opportunity to test drive vehicles without visiting their showroom. Some car dealers allow consumers to schedule “test drive deliveries.” If a consumer chooses this option, the car dealer will arrange to drop off the vehicle at the consumer’s house and pick it up once their test drive is over. This is far more convenient than traveling to a dealership for a test drive, which is why it is so popular among consumers. Automotive consumers also have the option of taking a virtual test drive using their smartphone, tablet, or computer. A virtual test drive allows them to see what it’s like to sit behind the wheel of a vehicle without ever seeing the vehicle in person. These test drives are powered by virtual reality, so the consumer will feel as if they are really driving down the road in the car of their choice. Now that these options are available, it’s not as necessary for consumers to visit showrooms in person. Car Dealer Showroom [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/The-Future-of-the-Car-Dealer-Showroom-Experience.jpg] THE FUTURE OF THE CAR DEALER SHOWROOM EXPERIENCE The shift to online car shopping was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but this doesn’t mean that things will go back to normal once the pandemic is over. Research shows that the shift to digital has made the car buying process more convenient and efficient. Satisfaction levels have also increased among consumers who shop for cars online. Buyers who completed half or more of the car buying steps online were far more satisfied with their overall experience than buyers who completed 20% or less of the process online. Because of this, it’s safe to say that the shift to digital and the impact it has had on the showroom experience is here to stay.