Blog

RELAYCARS

The Rise of Extended Reality Tourism

The Rise of Extended Reality Tourism

September 24, 2021

Millions of people travel to different cities or countries to explore new cultures, visit historic landmarks, go on exciting adventures, or relax. In the past, tourists typically traveled to their destination via plane, train, boat, or car. Once they arrived, they could stay with friends or family, camp under the stars, check into a hotel, or reserve a room in a vacation rental.  However, the way that tourists experience other parts of the world is changing thanks to extended reality technologies. What is extended reality tourism and why is it becoming increasingly popular? Here’s what you need to know: WHAT IS EXTENDED REALITY TOURISM? “Extended reality” is an umbrella term for all immersive technologies, which include virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality. Virtual reality is a technology that transports users to a computer-generated simulation of an alternative world. The technology shuts the real world out in order to fully immerse the user in this simulated environment. They are even able to move around and interact with elements of their simulated environment.  Rise of Extended Reality Tourism [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Augmented-reality.jpg] Augmented reality is a technology that allows users to superimpose elements from the digital world onto their real world environment. Users can superimpose various digital elements such as text, images, and animations. Unlike virtual reality, augmented reality does not shut the real world out. Instead, it uses digital elements to add to or enhance the real world. Mixed reality is a blend of virtual and augmented reality technologies.  Extended reality tourism involves using virtual reality, augmented reality, and/or mixed reality technologies to experience other places. HOW COVID-19 LED TO THE RISE OF EXTENDED REALITY TOURISM The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic impacted nearly every sector of the economy, but none were hit quite as hard as the tourism industry. Some countries closed their borders to tourists, whereas others issued stay-at-home or lockdown orders that prohibited or severely restricted travel. However, the tourism industry did not bounce back once these orders were lifted. Even when countries started to open up again, most people were still hesitant to travel due to health concerns.  The impact of the pandemic will be felt on the tourism industries of all countries, but it will have the biggest impact on countries that rely heavily on tourism for jobs and economic growth. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development  (UNCTAD) estimates that the sharp decline in international tourism during the COVID-19 pandemic will cause a loss of more than $4 trillion to the global GDP.  Furthermore, more than 100 million jobs in the tourism industry are at risk as a result of the pandemic.  Rise of Extended Reality Tourism [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/tourism-industry.jpg] Over a year later, the pandemic is still raging on, and the tourism industry is still suffering. But now, the tourism industry is beginning to embrace extended reality in an effort to adjust to this new normal.  Because so many people still aren’t willing to travel, some companies are using extended reality to offer stay-at-home travel experiences. This benefits both consumers and the tourism industry. Extended reality tourism gives consumers the opportunity to travel the world safely and at a fraction of the cost. This technology also creates a new revenue stream for companies that are struggling to stay afloat in the tourism industry. EXTENDED REALITY TOURISM IN THE REAL WORLD There are countless extended reality tourism experiences available to consumers today. Some examples include: * Petra Xplore App * Faroe Islands’ Remote Tourism * Baalbek Ruins Virtual Tour * Virtual Aurora Tours * Atlantis, The Palm Hotel Tour * Acroptolis AR and VR App PETRA XPLORE APP Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Jordan. In June 2020, city officials launched the Petra Xplore App, which uses virtual reality technology to transport users to the historical city.  Users can see the entire city–and its most famous landmarks–at scale. They can walk through and explore numerous points of interest, including the amphitheater, great temple, monastery, and tombs.  As users explore the city, a voiceover plays to help them understand what they are looking at and its historical significance.  This app, which was already being developed before the COVID-19 pandemic, helps tourists from around the world experience the city of Petra without ever leaving home.   FAROE ISLANDS’ REMOTE TOURISM The Faroe Islands’ economy relies heavily on tourism, which is why officials decided to launch an extended reality tourism experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Remote Tourism Tool gives tourists the power to explore the mountains, waterfalls, and other parts of the Faroe Islands using a smartphone, tablet, or computer.  Tourists can also interact with locals in real time. The locals who choose to participate will then act as the tourist’s tour guide as they virtually explore the islands. This creates an unforgettable, authentic experience for tourists. BAALBEK RUINS VIRTUAL TOUR The Baalbek Reborn Virtual Tour was launched in March 2021. This virtual tour gives tourists access to three-dimensional reconstructions of the state of the Baalbek Ruins in the third century AD. In other words, it allows tourists to travel back in time to see what the Baalbek Ruins looked like thousands of years ago.  Tourists can see famous sites such as the Temple of Bacchus, the Temple of Venus and the Temple of the Muses. It is a fully immersive experience that makes tourists feel as if they are actually on the ground exploring these historic ruins.  VIRTUAL AURORA TOURS Many tourists dream of seeing the northern lights in person. Now, they can make this dream a reality by taking a virtual tour of the lights. The Virtual Aurora Tour is a short virtual reality video that transports tourists to Sweden, where they can see the northern lights appear in the skies above Abisko National Park.  The Swedish travel company that created this tour also plans on releasing other virtual reality videos that transport tourists to the Aurora Sky Station.  Rise of Extended Reality Tourism [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/The-Palm-Hotel-Tour.jpg] ATLANTIS, THE PALM HOTEL TOUR Some companies are using extended reality to help tourists decide where to stay once they start traveling in-person. One example of this is the Atlantis, The Palm hotel in Dubai. This hotel gives tourists the opportunity to take a virtual tour of the hotel online. They can walk through the lobby, check out the biggest suite in the hotel, and explore on-site activities and amenities such as the aquarium, gardens, and pool. This fully immersive virtual experience helps tourists understand what it would be like to stay at the hotel, which makes it easier for them to decide whether they should make a reservation.  ACROPTOLIS AR AND VR APP Tourists who visit the Acropolis in person will be given an iPad mini that they can use to access the Acroptolis AR and VR app. The app uses augmented reality and virtual reality to show tourists what this historic site looked like thousands of years ago. To access this experience, tourists simply need to point their iPad camera in any direction. The app will then show them a three-dimensional reconstruction of what that specific area looked like in the past.  IS EXTENDED REALITY TOURISM HERE TO STAY? There’s no question that the COVID-19 pandemic led to the rise of extended reality tourism. But what will happen to extended reality tourism once the pandemic is over?  Some experts believe that extended reality tourism will keep growing in popularity long after the pandemic is over. These experts believe that extended reality tourism will continue to appeal to tourists who are looking for an inexpensive way to travel the world. It will also appeal to people who can’t travel due to physical limitations, work constraints, or family obligations.  Experts also believe that extended reality tourism could be used in the classroom to take students on virtual field trips. This would allow teachers to take their students anywhere in the world within the span of a single school day.  Other experts believe that extended reality tourism will slowly start to fade away after the pandemic is over. These experts believe that extended reality tourism faces certain challenges that are far too difficult to overcome. Rise of Extended Reality Tourism [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/virtual-reality-headset.jpg] For example, even though these technologies have been around for years, many consumers still don’t know what they are or the benefits of using them. Getting consumers to adopt these technologies is a significant challenge for the extended reality tourism industry.  It may also be difficult for consumers to access extended reality tourism experiences. This is because consumers may need a virtual reality headset or augmented reality glasses to access certain experiences. Some experts believe that extended reality will be used on-site at tourist attractions long after the pandemic is over. These experts think that extended reality technologies will enhance the tourist experience at these attractions. However, other experts disagree. These experts believe that foot traffic at major tourist attractions will increase after the pandemic is over and it is safe to travel again. This increase in foot traffic will make it more difficult for tourists to enjoy the extended reality experience on-site. For example, if a museum is crowded with people, it may be more difficult to safely use a virtual reality headset. The people walking by could also “break” the augmented reality experience by interfering with the superimposed digital elements. There’s no way of knowing whether extended reality tourism will continue to grow in popularity once the COVID-19 crisis has been resolved. But for now, extended reality tourism is drastically changing the way in which people travel and experience other destinations.

An Eye on Smart Contact Lenses

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

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.

Snap’s Acquisition of Vertebrae Could Transform Online Shopping

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.

Millennials Prefer Digital, Have Severed the T.V. Cord

Millennials Prefer Digital, Have Severed the T.V. Cord

August 2, 2021

MarketingDive dove into the millennial preference for digital experiences as they are known as this demographic has seemingly severed the once ubiquitous tether to advertising: the television. Yes, millennials watch television but not in the standard cable or basic channel type of way. Are the days of advertising on local channels zapped by tech? Not necessarily, at least not for all audiences. Millennials may prefer digital media offerings though. So what does this mean for dealerships? A LOOK BACK AT YE OLDE DEALERSHIP ADVERTISING Dealerships that have stood for generations—maybe run by the same family for years—remember the old days of advertising. There were newspaper ads. And television commercials. It’s the television commercials—especially on local channels—that those dealership families and their customers might remember best…and fondly, too. Back in ye olden days before the rise of the internet and the ads that dominate the internet, television commercials gave dealerships their way to shine. Commercials might have been gimmicky. They might have included the dealership owner, a mascot, a particular phrase. But there was likely something, some special detail that made each dealership’s commercials stand out. Some commercials may linger, still, in the memory of customers. These commercials aren’t necessarily dead. Commercials are still effective. And they are still memorable. But these advertisements might not reach all the intended audiences that dealerships need to target. MarketingDive talks about millennials as cord cutters. This term is used to describe the generation’s preference for digital experiences. Yes, millennials watch television screens. However, those screens might not be tethered to a satellite or a cable box. Chances are probably high that those millennial televisions are digitally connected to the internet and have been downloaded with streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, Disney+, etc. Even cable experiences are streaming. For example, Charter doesn’t require a box anymore. Subscribers can opt for streaming services to watch all their favorite channels. However, on these streaming channels, commercials air as they would while watching via a television tethered to a cable box. In this way, viewers may still see traditional commercials. Hulu, Netflix and other services don’t work this way. So how do dealerships and other businesses reach consumers like many millennials who have cut the traditional television cord? This is how businesses and dealerships need to think outside traditional channels. Millennials Prefer Digital, Have Severed the T.V. Cord [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Over-the-Top-Advertising.jpg] OVER-THE-TOP ADVERTISING Streaming services generate revenue from their monthly subscription fees, but many of these services also allow advertisers. So, yes, dealerships can still reach millennials via commercials or digital advertising. However, these ad options are a little bit different. They may be called over-the-top advertising, which is a type of advertising that is only for streaming services. Messages may need to be concise. However, the benefit of this type of advertising is that it does not give the viewer the option to skip the advertisement. Why is it called ‘over the top?’ The term refers to going over television providers. Forbes explains that the term “…refers to streaming companies’ ability to bypass TV providers.” Choosing to invest in over-the-top advertising could help dealerships reach consumers who opt not to be tethered to a cable cord. Statista notes that only 28 percent of Americans have never invested in a streaming service. Meanwhile, more than 60 percent of adults in the U.S. are streaming subscribers! Millennials Prefer Digital, Have Severed the T.V. Cord [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Digital-Experiences.jpg] AUGMENTED REALITY & OTHER DIGITAL EXPERIENCES RetailDive also explored how manufacturers are using “buzzy campaigns” to get the attention of millennials and maybe anyone else that has cut the cable cord. While RetailDive highlighted Toyota’s launch of its 2021 Sienna and Hyundai’s augmented reality collaborations with National Geographic, we’ll explore several other campaigns and experiences that might be tech-centric and unique for the digital savvy consumer. NISSAN Nissan’s Invisible to Visible technology has been highlighted in many publications (and on this site!). It’s worth mentioning over and over again, because the potential of I2V is so far-reaching. This technology isn’t a launch experience but a driving transformation. I2V embraces digital completely, which could be a massive selling point for millennials who fully embrace tech. This is, after all, the generation that has grown up with cell phones. Invisible to Visible technology would allow for avatars to sit in the car for companionship; parents or friends can join the ride, in case the driver is going cross-country solo (or for whatever reason). Don’t like that it’s rainy outside? Change the windows to a sunny day! I2V also lets drivers understand obstacles ahead and even summon driving help! Mashable refers to I2V as “Nissan’s freaky AR concept.” However, the concept isn’t so freaky…it could be revolutionary, though. PORSCHE Back in 2019, Porsche launched the “Porsche Augmented Visualizer App.” The app can be used at home or anywhere to create the user’s dream car. Augmented reality allows for the car to be previewed in the user’s real environment. Drop the Porsche in the driveway, the garden or wherever. These unique experiences let customers explore different features, looks and designs…and, of course, have fun with augmented reality. Download the app via Google Play or the App Store. CADILLAC CNET highlighted the 2021 Cadillac Escalade’s cool new augmented reality features. The dashboard takes augmented reality to a new driving level. The augmented reality dashboard provides a camera view of the road ahead and lets the driver know exactly when to turn as digitized graphic arrows appear to show the direction of the turn. The AR feature is directly behind the wheel. CNET points out that the Escalade even offers night vision, so drivers can see anything ahead…even in the darkest of nights. DODGE Dodge recently introduced the Know & Go app to help new Dodge Ram owners navigate the infotainment system in the vehicle as well as other features. But this isn’t just any app—it’s augmented reality! Using the phone camera to view a feature and augmented reality options will help the owner explore what they need. HYUNDAI’S OUTSIDE ACADEMY RetailDive mentioned Hyundai’s partnership with National Geographic for a series called Outside Academy. The experience is all about exploring the National Parks in the U.S., and it features immersive augmented reality navigation. And, of course, Hyundai vehicles feature prominently. Users can explore all the National Parks online…and maybe plan a trip of their own. LAMBORGHINI What is an automaker to do when Covid has kept the world inside? Launch a new luxury model online, of course! And augmented reality boosted the experience! Lamborghini launched its Huracán EVO with an augmented reality experience that allowed users to place it anywhere and explore the vehicle. Once the car was placed in the user’s environment, the user could walk around it and check out other features. KIA’S THE FEATURES FILM Forget standard commercials. Kia took advertising to the movies. The Features Film mixes Kia vehicles with a thrilling, adventure-packed movie. Eight different cars also are stars of the movie, and the movie even shines a light on some key features in those cars, too. Multiple dealerships have posted the video, so it’s easy to find via YouTube. VIRTUAL SHOWROOMS OR AUGMENTED REALITY SHOWROOMS Manufacturers and dealerships also may provide customers with online tools to preview different models in either a virtual environment or using augmented reality. These virtual and augmented reality showrooms could let users view the vehicles from different vantage points and even look inside at the interior features. Some might even give customers the option to view the car in different paint colors! WILL DIGITAL EXPERIENCES CUT THE CORD TO STANDARD ADVERTISING? If many millennials prefer digital streaming services and enjoy immersive experiences like augmented reality, could the industry pivot to these demands? While not all generations prefer the digital experience, this could be the way of the future. As statistics show, more than half of adults in the United States subscribe to a streaming service. If they have cut the cable cord, the only way to reach this audience may be via digital experiences or through over-the-top advertising. Augmented reality and virtual reality also are becoming more commonplace. Users may enjoy these experiences as they nod to a game experience in some ways. For example, augmented reality experiences that allow users to create their own car can keep the individual on a web site. So if that augmented reality or virtual reality experience is featured on a dealer or manufacturer site, maybe the consumer checks out other pages on the site, too. These unique tech-savvy experiences could provide a way for customers to also do more car research online. Younger shoppers could prefer online experiences to in-person shopping, even when looking for a new vehicle. Virtual and augmented reality showrooms allow consumers to preview cars without leaving home; they can understand if that vehicle appeals to them and if it fits their needs. After their virtual experience, they may then visit dealership sites for information on pricing, promotions or other details…or they may even schedule a virtual test drive online. Cutting the cable cord might become the norm as streaming gains even more popularity. Generation Z is right behind the millennials. And when Zoomers become the key demographic for car sales, preferences may change once again.

What is Project Aria?

What is Project Aria?

July 19, 2021

Facebook Reality Labs is exploring all kinds of new research for possible new technology. However, some consumers might have heard about Project Aria. Facebook emphasizes that Project Aria is NOT for consumers, and the glasses used for Project Aria also are not augmented reality. So what is Project Aria? Here’s everything to know about the project, the people consumers could encounter in the world and what to possibly expect in the future. YOU CAN’T BUY PROJECT ARIA GLASSES There are Project Aria glasses, but these wearables are not for the consumer. Project Aria glasses are used to collect visual data of the world; they are worn by researchers. And these glasses aren’t augmented reality technology. Consumers should not view the Project Aria glasses as the new or future prototype of augmented reality glasses about to be unleashed by Facebook. While there always seems to be buzz around augmented reality glasses by one of the major tech companies, Project Aria glasses are not going to be the next new Facebook product. They are for research, and, according to Facebook, these special glasses will be used by Facebook employees or contractors. Facebook further explains that the company will “…be asking people of diverse backgrounds to participate in the program to create an accurate and varied view of the world.” ABOUT PROJECT ARIA So what exactly is Project Aria if it isn’t some new future product? Again, the project is all about collecting data on the real world and how the wearer sees and explores this world. The glasses will help Facebook regarding augmented reality development. Facebook explains that “Sensors on the Project Aria research device will capture the wearer’s video and audio, as well as their eye tracking and location information.”  The glasses can store this information and then it can be used to discover “…how AR can work in the real world.” LIVE MAPS Data from Project Aria also could help Facebook create Live Maps or 3D maps of the world. Facebook explains that augmented reality devices need to understand the real world around the user via a 3D map of spaces would be necessary. Ideally, an augmented reality device would change and update as data changes in the real world. So data would be updated when a business changes names. Facebook notes that Project Aria “… is testing out how this can work in practice.” What is Project Aria [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Are-Researchers-Incognito.jpg] ARE RESEARCHERS INCOGNITO? Project Aria is an in-depth project. The general public might be curious about how researchers will make themselves known. Or will they make themselves known? Are Facebook’s researchers undercover for this ambitious project? Facebook’s team of researchers aren’t undercover operatives! The members of the public will be able to identify them. Facebook explains that team members will wear clothing that makes them known as members of Project Aria; researchers also will wear lanyards with information about a website for consumers to visit about the project. And the device—or glasses—won’t be secretly collecting data. Facebook explains that the glasses will show a white light when recording. WILL THE PUBLIC BE TAPED WITHOUT CONSENT? Privacy is a big deal. Facebook has explained that team members for Project Aria will receive training on when it is and is NOT ok to record (like in a locker room). However, members of the public might not want to be recorded. Facebook explains: “We’re also instructing all Project Aria research participants to comply with any requests from people in the near vicinity that they stop recording and/or delete relevant data.” In addition, Project Aria devices also don’t include face recognition capabilities (per Facebook). So Joe Smith isn’t going to be identified as Joe Smith! What is Project Aria [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Is-Project-Aria-Global.jpg] IS PROJECT ARIA GLOBAL? If information is gathered, will it go global? Will Facebook employees be scoping out Paris? Rome? Barcelona? Project Aria is limited to the United States. Facebook is gathering information in Seattle and San Francisco (the Bay Area). Individuals living in these areas might see some Facebook researchers with glasses on! ARE AUGMENTED REALITY GLASSES AROUND THE CORNER? With Project Aria pursuing the data to make augmented reality glasses more of a reality, are augmented reality glasses a ‘coming soon’ commodity? While there is constant buzz about augmented reality glasses (especially related to Facebook), according to CNET, these glasses “…are years away.”  However, consumers who really want the next big thing from the social media giant might put new glasses on their wish list. Facebook x Ray-Ban glasses are coming soon. What they look like and what features they may include, though, aren’t yet known. One piece of data is known…they won’t include augmented reality! Given the partnership with Ray-Ban, the new glasses may be pretty chic. AUGMENTED REALITY GLASSES: WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS Facebook’s augmented reality glasses might be years away, but Project Aria is still exciting in that it shows that the future of augmented reality could be incredibly cool. Augmented reality glasses of some variety may be the next big thing. When these glasses will launch is anyone’s guess, but a consumer-driven pair of glasses might be the new reality. Currently, most consumers experience extended reality using a virtual reality headset. While Facebook’s Oculus headsets are fairly priced, the technology isn’t owned by everyone like a smartphone. Virtual reality is common, but is it fully mainstream? That might be up for debate. Again, while the price point of some headsets are reasonable (especially for Oculus), some users might not favor the bulkiness of a headset. So the excitement surrounding glasses might be related to their sleeker look and lighter weight (one would assume they would be lighter). The big question, though, might be what users experience with these glasses. Currently, augmented reality experiences are vast. Many are explored via smartphones. Museums use augmented reality features to enhance some exhibits. Augmented reality also lets consumers preview products in a room…or even on their faces (in the case of cosmetics!). Augmented reality glasses could allow these experiences to be accessible without a separate device. Or maybe wearing augmented reality glasses lets the user explore their world in a new way. Augmented reality type apps already let users use their camera to capture a plant in nature to identify it. Imagine wearing glasses where the user looks at a plant or animal and data pops up related to its identification. This would be an easy way to avoid poison ivy! The app SkyView Lite lets users identify constellations in the sky. Could augmented reality glasses peer up at the sky and suddenly reveal data about the stars? Would these glasses download augmented reality apps or would this data be programmed? The potential for augmented reality is far-reaching. As these glasses are simply in the research phase, their features are very much a mystery until augmented reality glasses become a consumer reality. AUGMENTED REALITY GLASSES…AND GAMING! The future of augmented reality glasses obviously might include gaming, too. Popular augmented reality games like Pokemon GO and Harry Potter: Wizard Unite can be downloaded to phones and other devices. Augmented reality glasses could change gaming, though. The augmented reality experience would be experienced firsthand; not simply through a phone or tablet. Pokemon could pop up in front of those augmented reality glasses! Running away from zombies with the app Zombies, Run! could be amplified with augmented reality glasses. The runner wouldn’t have to pay attention to a phone. The glasses would allow the experience to happen seamlessly. The zombies would be part of the user’s line of vision, and perhaps this could enhance the fun of the run…and the game! AUGMENTED COMMUNICATION What about phone calls or meetings? Could glasses augment those experiences, too? Who knows, but Nissan’s Invisible to Visible technology will allow for avatars to appear in a car with the use of glasses. When augmented reality glasses become a reality, imagine if avatars of friends and family appeared before our eyes during conversations. Or maybe augmented reality allows for video calls to take place in front of our eyes. No more staring at a screen to participate in virtual meetings! PROJECT ARIA: A MELODY OF POSSIBILITIES While Facebook researchers may be busy collecting data for Project Aria, the potential for this data could be far reaching in relation to augmented reality. Creating a 3D map of surroundings could allow for augmented reality to reach different aspects of our world and our daily experiences. One day a simple pair of glasses could show the user information about the weather and maybe even warn them to take shelter from an impending storm. Getting lost might never happen. What if the user could enter data related to where they are going and the glasses help them find their way in a busy city. While augmented reality glasses from Facebook might be years away, their potential could be life-changing. And one day augmented reality glasses could be the next smartphone—yet another device we never knew we needed but now cannot live without!

Is a Car Customizer App Worth the Download?

Is a Car Customizer App Worth the Download?

July 9, 2021

Shoppers browsing around the internet for a new car might also look through their phone’s virtual store for apps that serve as tools for previewing vehicles. A car customizer app might allow shoppers to view different cars and change out their features. Is a car customizer app worth the download, though? While most phones and devices might not take a lot of time to download an app, every new app does take up memory and space on a device. When shoppers want to preview vehicles they can find a tool online for free thanks to RelayCars…no download required. Is a Car Customizer App Worth the Download? [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Using-a-Virtual-Showroom-to-Customize.jpg] USING A VIRTUAL SHOWROOM TO CUSTOMIZE RelayCars offers an online virtual car showroom for shoppers to preview a massive inventory of cars. The onsite virtual showroom is not an app. Anyone can use the virtual showroom, and, yes, it’s free! RelayCars isn’t an app; it is an online tool…or car visualizer resource. While an app might be free, they require users to download the application data to a device like a phone or tablet. RelayCars is available online, and the showroom is a website-based offering. To access RelayCars, just visit the website. From there, the site will direct users to enter the showroom. Then virtual shoppers can choose their favorite vehicle to explore. With the virtual showroom, users can change out the color of the car, look at the vehicle from different vantage points and even peek inside. CAR CUSTOMIZER APPS What about an app that lets the shopper fully customize a vehicle? Do these apps exist? Yes! Although they aren’t apps that necessarily need to be downloaded. For example, Porsche offers the Car Configurator, which allows shoppers to choose a model and customize it to their specifications. Other manufacturers may offer similar options via their websites. Ferrari also lets site visitors create their own dream car via their Car Configurator tool. Shoppers looking to customize a car should visit the major auto brands’ sites to find similar tools. Car configurator or build tools are available via Toyota, Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac, Nissan, Subaru, Honda, Hyundai, etc. In addition, Ford lets site users customize their order. Is a Car Customizer App Worth the Download? [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/So-What-Can-Shoppers-Customize.jpg] SO WHAT CAN SHOPPERS CUSTOMIZE? With the build or customize tools, customers or site visitors can select a model and choose different options. Each build or configurator tool may provide more or less options for customization. However, these tools are all about letting site visitors build their own model. While it may be incredibly time consuming to preview every build tool for all the manufacturers, Hyundai’s could be a good example of what to expect from a car customizer app or tool. Site visitors choose their model then select their trim and the vehicle’s color. The interior color can be selected, too (based on the options available for each model). The build tool also lets shoppers select the powertrain and accessories (like a cargo package, hitch, etc.). After the options have been selected, users will see the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for their vehicle. Hyundai’s tool also gives users the option to schedule a test drive or to check inventory. THE BENEFITS OF A CAR CUSTOMIZER APP OR TOOL Car customizer tools can be used for shoppers who want to estimate the price they might pay for all the options they want for their vehicle. The tool also can be used just to preview a specific vehicle before visiting the dealership.  Like Hyundai’s customizer/build tool, brands also might let shoppers or site visitors check inventory at their local dealerships. After building that dream car, they might be able to find it locally and have a better understanding of the price they might pay.  Car customizer tools also can be a fun option for individuals who are just beginning their new car search. Maybe there is an uncertainty regarding what model or brand they might prefer. Since so many major automotive brands provide car customizer tools, shoppers can build different models to gain a better understanding of pricing and features/options.  LUXURY BRANDS AND CAR CUSTOMIZER APPS AND TOOLS Luxury brands like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bugatti, and Rolls Royce may provide a next-level car customization experience. Why? Buyers of these brands may simply want what they want…and not worry about the price associated with those customized options. One Bugatti owner wanted a very specific paint job. The diamond patterns were eventually achieved, but the process took two years! The car was the Bugatti Divo, which now costs about $6 million. The custom car was dubbed the ‘Lady Bug.’ ARE CAR CUSTOMIZER APPS FREE? Shoppers visiting manufacturer’s sites or dealership sites may wonder if they can use the build or customizer tools for free. The tools online are often free. Auto brands likely provide these tools to help those who are shopping at home. During Covid, for example, most consumers were stuck inside. Dealerships also might have been closed, too. These online tools provided a way for brands and maybe even dealerships to help customers preview their new car and find price estimates, too. Shopping online—even for vehicles—may be the future. Many car shoppers begin their search online, and these build/customizer tools might be a vital part of the online research process. Shoppers might want to make a list of their favorite models or even print out photos of their vehicle to show to dealership sales professionals. Providing online info when visiting the dealership could make the buying process a bit easier. And some manufacturers also let customers schedule test drives from the website. Not only can shoppers customize their vehicle and build it online, but they also can plan to drive one of the models on the road. However, dealerships might not have the exact custom model in their inventory available to test out. WHAT ABOUT THE DEALERSHIP? While car customizer tools can help shoppers find an estimated price of their future new car, the dealership might be the best place to experience certain features. Test drives of models are an important part of the car buying process; seeing a vehicle online doesn’t help the buyer understand how it feels and maneuvers on the road. Sometimes pictures don’t and can’t tell the whole story. Maybe the seats don’t feel quite right when driving. Maybe the car doesn’t have the ‘oomph’ on the road that the buyer wants. That test drive at the dealership or even a virtual test drive (that allows the car to be delivered to the customer’s house) can help provide more insight about the vehicle. Other details about the vehicle might need to be experienced in person, too. For example, the feel of the interior (cloth and leather) might be a make or break issue with some buyers. Sound systems and navigation systems also might need to be experienced in person. Some buyers really want to explore the features of the vehicle to determine if they like it. As restrictions have eased up, buyers also may head to the dealership to finalize a deal. If there is a trade-in that the buyer will use to lower the price of their dream car, a visit to the dealership might help the buyer better understand the value of that older car. Buyers also might secure their financing at the dealership. Some buyers may consider the dealership their only source of shopping. It’s possible that some new car buyers might have waited until dealerships opened back up to go shopping for their new car. The in-person shopping experience might be their preferred method. Maybe they enjoy strolling around the lot and looking at different models. Or the in-person buying experience might just be familiar to them and maybe they are uncomfortable researching online. CAR CUSTOMIZER APPS FOR THE FUTURE Car customizer tools and/or apps might be an option that most brands/manufacturers now provide to shoppers. Many major automotive brands offer a build or customizer option on their website for shoppers to better create their own dream car and find the price, too. Online virtual showrooms like RelayCars also offer shoppers the tools to preview cars…even older models. With RelayCars, shoppers can explore a huge inventory of makes and models in 3D. The virtual experience doesn’t even require any special equipment, although high-speed internet is recommended for better viewing. A virtual showroom like RelayCars allows shoppers the option to switch out paint colors and even turn the car around for a different view. Shoppers can even peek inside to get more information about the interior space. And, yes, RelayCars is free!  These customizer tools may become more advanced in the future. Maybe these tools are accessed using augmented reality glasses or virtual reality goggles. Maybe shoppers can build their car in 3D and even virtually sit in their car to gain more insight about the space. Perhaps shoppers will be able to walk around their customized car as they would in the dealership. Or maybe the dealerships offer these virtual experiences. For now, though, shoppers can utilize the many customizers and build tools available online. Compare prices and find the car that best suits both the lifestyle and the budget!

Will Remote Work Become the New Norm?

Will Remote Work Become the New Norm?

July 5, 2021

In 2018, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that only 5.3% of the workforce was working remotely full-time. But that number has increased significantly over the years, mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Last year, many offices and workplaces had to temporarily close their doors to comply with local stay-at-home or lockdown orders. Most of the U.S. workforce had to start working remotely in response to this sudden, unexpected change. In fact, right before the COVID-19 pandemic, only 20% of the workforce was working remotely, but this number grew to 70% during the pandemic.  Even though the stay-at-home and lockdown orders were lifted last year, most workers still have not returned to the office. This has led many experts to question whether working from home will continue even after the pandemic is over. What are the pros and cons of working remotely? What will the future of remote work look like? Here’s what you should know: WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF WORKING FROM HOME? Remote work has the potential to benefit both employers and employees. Some of the many advantages of working from include: * Increased job satisfaction. Research shows that employees who work from home are more satisfied with their jobs than employees that must commute to work.  * More flexibility. Working from home allows employees to work more flexible hours, which can help them achieve a better work/life balance. * Lower operating costs. By allowing employees to work from home, employers can avoid the cost of renting or buying office space. The U.S. Patent Office, for example, saved $38 million on office space by switching to remote work. * Larger job applicant pool. If employees work from home, employers are free to hire job candidates located all around the country. They are no longer limited to local candidates. * Increased productivity. Numerous studies have shown that productivity tends to increase when employees work remotely. * More control over the work environment. Employees who work from home can create their own work environment, which is something they cannot do in the office. This allows them to create whatever type of environment works best for them.  Will Remote Work Become the New Norm? [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/What-Are-the-Drawbacks-of-Working-From-Home.jpg] WHAT ARE THE DRAWBACKS OF WORKING FROM HOME? There are drawbacks to working from home, too. Some of the disadvantages of remote work include: * Enforced isolation. Working from home means spending a lot of time alone, which may not appeal to some employees. * Noisy environment. Employees with kids or employees who share their at-home work space with a spouse or roommate may have to work in a noisy, distracting environment. * Longer hours. Studies show that employees who work from home tend to work longer hours than employees who commute to work. This could be because it’s harder to separate work from your personal life when you are working from home. * Privacy concerns. Employers often keep tabs on their remote workers with monitoring software, which some employees may consider an invasion of their privacy. * Limited to certain professions. It’s impossible for people who work in health care, service, public transportation, and other fields to work from home.  * Child care. During the pandemic, many remote employees had no other choice but to juggle child care and work, which was a constant struggle. HOW REMOTE WORK HAS CHANGED HOW PEOPLE WORK Regardless of the future of remote work, working from home has already led to several major changes to the way people work. Some of these changes are positive, whereas others are not. These major changes include: * Shift to New Technologies * Rethink Meetings * Lack of Communication With “Weak Ties” SHIFT TO NEW TECHNOLOGIES Remote workers had to quickly adopt several new technologies in order to successfully complete their work from home.  For example, Accenture, which employs over 500,000 people around the world, had to send nearly all of its employees home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, less than 10% of employees worked remotely, so this represented a major shift for the company.  To adapt to this change, Accenture relied heavily on Microsoft Teams, which is a business communication platform. Because employees were no longer able to meet face-to-face, they used this platform to conduct audio and video calls with their co-workers. According to Accenture, the volume of video calls increased sixfold and audio calls tripled to 900 million minutes. Thanks in part to these technologies, Accenture employees were able to seamlessly switch to remote work. Employee productivity also increased across several metrics, including developer productivity. Will Remote Work Become the New Norm? [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Rethink-Meetings.jpg] RETHINK MEETINGS It’s no secret that employees don’t enjoy meetings. Multiple studies have shown that employees want to reduce the number of meetings they must attend in the workplace. In fact, one study conducted by researchers at Boston University found that 71% of employees think most meetings are unproductive and inefficient. Fortunately, the shift to remote work has forced many employers to rethink common office practices, including meetings.  Employers now schedule video conferences with employees who are working remotely. But video conferencing technology is far from perfect. The signal is often delayed, which leads to attendees awkwardly talking over one another. Furthermore, many employees find it unnatural and unsettling to stare at their co-workers on a video conference for hours.  Problems like these have made employers more mindful of when they are scheduling meetings and who needs to attend. To avoid issues with video conferencing, employers are now only scheduling meetings when it is absolutely necessary, and they’re only inviting those who could benefit from attending. As a result, there are fewer formal video conference meetings with remote workers, although co-workers still stay in constant contact via instant messaging. LACK OF COMMUNICATION WITH “WEAK TIES” In an office setting, conversations often start when two or more employees bump into one another in a common area. But this isn’t possible in a remote setting, and the lack of small talk like this has changed the way remote employees communicate with one another. Humanyze software is designed to evaluate internal communication within organizations. It classifies each contact as a “strong tie” or “weak tie.” A strong tie is a contact an employee talks to frequently, whereas a weak tie is a contact an employee rarely talks to.  Prior to COVID-19, about 45% of an employee’s time was spent communicating with their five strongest ties within their organization. During the pandemic, this number increased to 60%. In other words, working remotely made strong ties even stronger.  On the other hand, communication with contacts classified as weak ties decreased by over 30%. Research has shown that communication between weak ties within a company often leads to innovative new ideas. Because of this, the drop in weak tie communication could affect a company’s ability to innovate.  Will Remote Work Become the New Norm? [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/The-Future-of-Remote-Work.jpg] THE FUTURE OF REMOTE WORK There’s no doubt that the pandemic completely disrupted the way people work. But after the pandemic is over, will employees return to the workplace and go back to business as usual? Here are three predictions about the future of remote work: * Emergence of New Technologies * Permanent Shift to Remote Work * Hybrid Remote/Office Model EMERGENCE OF NEW TECHNOLOGIES Experts believe that countless new technologies will emerge to support remote work. Some experts predict that employers will use augmented reality and virtual reality to conduct meetings with remote workers in the future. These technologies may create a more personal, intimate meeting experience and eventually replace video conferencing and audio calls. Several communication platforms designed specifically for remote workers are already in development. Pragli is an instant messaging platform that allows remote workers to make their conversations public, which would give their co-workers an opportunity to join their conversation. The platform’s developers believe that this feature will help remote workers engage in small talk and banter that occurs frequently in an office setting. There’s also Loom.ai, which is a video conferencing platform that lets remote workers use avatars instead of showing their faces. Switching to an avatar helps remote workers avoid the awkwardness of staring at their co-workers during a video conference. It also gives remote workers the freedom to get up from their seats and move around so they don’t need to sit in the same position staring at their screen for the duration of the meeting. PERMANENT SHIFT TO REMOTE WORK Some experts predict that a number of companies will allow their employees to work remotely forever. Several companies have already hinted that this is a very real possibility. Facebook, for example, expects half of their workforce to shift to remote work within the next five years. Other companies have already moved forward with plans to permanently shift to remote work. Twitter has announced that its employees will not be required to return to the office at any point in the future. Nationwide Insurance permanently closed six of its offices after announcing that one-third of employees will now permanently work from home. These are just several examples of companies that are making the switch to remote work permanent, but experts predict that many others will follow suit in the near future. Will Remote Work Become the New Norm? [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Hybrid-Remote.jpg] HYBRID REMOTE/OFFICE MODEL Experts also predict that companies will adopt a hybrid model that allows employees to split their time between home and the office.  This is partly due to the fact that research shows that employees find it challenging to build trust with co-workers online. To solve this problem, experts believe that employers will give employees both face-to-face time and remote work time.  One scholar, Timothy Golden, found that there is a correlation between a worker’s happiness and the amount of time they spend working remotely. The more someone works from home, the happier they are. However, the worker’s happiness tends to plateau once they reach 15 hours of remote work per week. At this point, their happiness will not increase regardless of how many more hours they work from home. This study supports the idea of adopting a hybrid home/office approach in the future.

Covid Normal: The Popularity of Immersive Experiences

Covid Normal: The Popularity of Immersive Experiences

June 4, 2021

The Centers for Disease Control recently updated outdoor safety recommendations for vaccinated individuals. Some cities or states also might be relaxing guidelines as more individuals get vaccinated and Covid cases decrease. The entertainment industry may be ready for normalcy to return, as theaters and concert venues and other entertainment and cultural institutions either closed to the public or limited capacity. The popularity of immersive experiences like virtual reality likely increased in popularity during Covid (and even now), as the public needed safe forms of entertainment and venues needed to stay afloat. Virtual concerts and virtual tours and experiences continue to be offered, but what will the future hold for these immersive and alternative entertainment options? Has Covid changed the entertainment industry for good? COVID PUMMELS ENTERTAINMENT When Covid hit the United States, many businesses that weren’t essential closed their doors to the public. For entertainment venues, restaurants, theaters and museums and other cultural venues, the halt in visitors meant finding other ways to stay financially secure. While some might have qualified for government assistance through relief programs like PPP, many also might have turned to alternative ways to continue to offer services to the public…safely. A pivot to online experiences became popular. Museums offered virtual tours or maybe even online classes; this helped them reach out to the public, and it also provided entertainment options to individuals stuck at home. Musicians and performance venues might have felt the full force of the shutdown. Some musicians hosted online concerts for fans. Others might have struggled. Movie theaters were hit hard. The Motley Fool reported that several smaller movie theaters shut down permanently because of Covid. And there is no telling how the future will look, or if people will want to congregate in masses in theaters even after Covid. The public might be spoiled with being able to pay for movies at home and enjoy them on the couch…without the pricey snacks. The Centers for Disease Control recently updated outdoor safety recommendations for vaccinated individuals. Some cities or states also might be relaxing guidelines as more individuals get vaccinated and Covid cases decrease. The entertainment industry may be ready for normalcy to return, as theaters and concert venues and other entertainment and cultural institutions either closed to the public or limited capacity. The popularity of immersive experiences like virtual reality likely increased in popularity during Covid (and even now), as the public needed safe forms of entertainment and venues needed to stay afloat. Virtual concerts and virtual tours and experiences continue to be offered, but what will the future hold for these immersive and alternative entertainment options? Has Covid changed the entertainment industry for good? Covid Pummels Entertainment When Covid hit the United States, many businesses that weren’t essential closed their doors to the public. For entertainment venues, restaurants, theaters and museums and other cultural venues, the halt in visitors meant finding other ways to stay financially secure. While some might have qualified for government assistance through relief programs like PPP, many also might have turned to alternative ways to continue to offer services to the public…safely. A pivot to online experiences became popular. Museums offered virtual tours or maybe even online classes; this helped them reach out to the public, and it also provided entertainment options to individuals stuck at home. Musicians and performance venues might have felt the full force of the shutdown. Some musicians hosted online concerts for fans. Others might have struggled. Movie theaters were hit hard. The Motley Fool reported that several smaller movie theaters shut down permanently because of Covid. And there is no telling how the future will look, or if people will want to congregate in masses in theaters even after Covid. The public might be spoiled with being able to pay for movies at home and enjoy them on the couch…without the pricey snacks. Streaming, Virtual Reality and Wired World of Entertainment While Americans and individuals across the globe were sitting at home, they needed to find ways to pass their time…when they weren’t working from home. Obviously, trips to museums and theaters were out of the picture. But the internet was full of possibilities. Entertainment went wired; it streamed, augmented and went virtual. Movie theaters might have been zapped of revenue, but streaming services were racking up subscribers. Netflix surged. And so did other subscription streaming services. Streaming Movies For the first time, new movies—those once anticipated for the big screen—could be premiered at home with a price much lower than a few movie tickets. Concessions were in the pantry or fridge. Have to go to the bathroom? The movie could be paused and restarted at the viewer’s convenience. There were no cell phones ringing. No kicks to the back of the chair. No chatty kids. Virtual Tours What about museums? They might have been closed to foot traffic, but visitors still had options. Virtual reality played a role in recreating the in-person experience at home. Some virtual experiences could have required a headset, but most were fully accessible online. Virtual didn’t necessarily translate to entering a virtual world (like with a headset) but simply experiencing a venue remotely. Museums like the Louvre and even historic locations like the Sistine Chapel let visitors take tours online at home. Navigation through the locations could be done with a mouse or maybe by touching the screen (if the user was on a tablet). Other museums might have offered guided virtual tours where a staff member took the viewer around the museum with the aid of a camera. This was a bit like a remote walking tour. There were (and are) virtual tours of historic locations and cultural landmarks, too. Some were uploaded to YouTube by sites or maybe by visitors. Even from home, individuals could take a walking tour of The Great Wall of China, tour Buckingham Palace (from the BBC), or even virtually visit the Pyramids of Giza. Virtual Concerts Virtual concerts didn’t necessarily involve headsets or anything high-tech, beyond, of course, an internet connection and a device. Usually concerts were live streamed and could be watched on different sites or platforms. They might require tickets, although some were free. Virtual concerts or live streaming concerts are still popular. In fact, Billboard compiled a list of all the upcoming concerts for those who want to watch their favorite artists perform. The list is updated periodically. Exploring the World with Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality The pandemic also ushered in other types of immersive experiences to help students at home during Covid, and, hopefully, make learning from home a bit more exciting. There were apps that students could use to snap photos of flora and fauna in nature to find out more about them (including identification). Other apps like Skyview Lite allowed users to use their phone to look at the night sky for constellation information. Skyview will even find satellites! Immersive Shopping Experiences Retail businesses also embraced immersive virtual experiences. Before Covid, many businesses already had an online presence. However, the pandemic likely made online visibility and accessibility much more important to survival. While not everyone was shopping for items beyond the essential, some consumers might have taken solace in scrolling through clothes or other items. Consumers might have jumped online to find casual clothes for the new work-from-home normal, too. For the automotive industry, online shopping really was not the norm before Covid. The shift to online car shopping for the consumer, though, probably wasn’t so new. Many car buyers used online resources to begin their car shopping experiences; in 2019, Cox Automotive reported that “Third-party sites are the top online source for both new and used buyers, with 80% of all car buyers visiting them during the shopping process.” During the pandemic, shoppers headed online to save time, too. According to an article by Kelley Blue Book that cited the “Car Buyer Journey Study, Pandemic Edition from Cox Automotive (which is KBB’s parent company):” “A total of 86 percent said they shopped online to save time at the dealership, during the pandemic.” Third-party sites, however, also might have improved their own content during the pandemic. Sites like RelayCars offered virtual and augmented reality showrooms that shoppers could use to preview their favorite cars before heading to the dealership. Virtual showrooms could be accessed via headset and an app available on Steam or just a regular device (via an app). While the virtual showroom provided cars in an online or virtual space, the augmented showroom gave users quite a different experience. Cars could be dropped into the user’s own space. This could be the driveway, a kitchen table or even the backyard. The car was visible via the device and the user could walk around the vehicle, look inside and update the car with a different paint hue. Immersive Experiences After the Pandemic While the pandemic is starting to subside as more individuals get vaccinated, the old normal could still be a distance away. The pandemic changed life abruptly, and some of these changes might just stick around. When life re-opens and gatherings can be held without worry (and without social distancing and masks), people may once again flock to concerts and festivals and even enjoy a movie. But will immersive experiences just die down? What the future holds remains to be seen. Some people might not feel comfortable being in big groups. Others may welcome normalcy. But virtual and augmented reality and the experiences they provide might continue to be embraced. The pandemic might have opened up a virtual world to those who had never experienced it. When virtual and online experiences were the norm, perhaps those bored at home sought them out…when they might not have done so before Covid. Virtual and augmented reality experiences may continue to flourish and be in demand. And consumers might like the idea of buying a ticket to a virtual event. Maybe virtual seats will be offered in the future. Perhaps concerts allow people to watch at home with a virtual ticket. But instead of just a television performance, maybe the experience is somehow more immersive. Maybe it’s even augmented. Place the musician anywhere! Unfortunately, no one really knows how normal will look after the pandemic. Things may go back to pre-Covid normalcy, or the world could become an interesting mix of real-life and virtual experiences. Before Covid, online shopping wasn’t new. However, the pandemic may have allowed consumers to realize that these online channels can decrease the time they spend finding the perfect item, especially when shopping for a new car. Virtual tourism also could become a trend. Virtual tours could provide accessibility to sites that some individuals couldn’t experience because of financial or other reasons. Maybe museums and cultural venues continue to offer these experiences as a means to reach a wider audience. As restrictions start to subside, we may soon understand how normal will look and if the public is breathing a sigh of relief from an unmasked face or still continuing to err on the side of caution six feet away. Old habits die hard, and life after Covid might be a mixture of relief and uncertainty. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Virtual-Reality-and-Wired-World-of-Entertainment.jpg] STREAMING, VIRTUAL REALITY AND WIRED WORLD OF ENTERTAINMENT While Americans and individuals across the globe were sitting at home, they needed to find ways to pass their time…when they weren’t working from home. Obviously, trips to museums and theaters were out of the picture. But the internet was full of possibilities. Entertainment went wired; it streamed, augmented and went virtual. Movie theaters might have been zapped of revenue, but streaming services were racking up subscribers. Netflix surged. And so did other subscription streaming services. STREAMING MOVIES For the first time, new movies—those once anticipated for the big screen—could be premiered at home with a price much lower than a few movie tickets. Concessions were in the pantry or fridge. Have to go to the bathroom? The movie could be paused and restarted at the viewer’s convenience. There were no cell phones ringing. No kicks to the back of the chair. No chatty kids. VIRTUAL TOURS What about museums? They might have been closed to foot traffic, but visitors still had options. Virtual reality played a role in recreating the in-person experience at home. Some virtual experiences could have required a headset, but most were fully accessible online. Virtual didn’t necessarily translate to entering a virtual world (like with a headset) but simply experiencing a venue remotely. Museums like the Louvre and even historic locations like the Sistine Chapel let visitors take tours online at home. Navigation through the locations could be done with a mouse or maybe by touching the screen (if the user was on a tablet). Other museums might have offered guided virtual tours where a staff member took the viewer around the museum with the aid of a camera. This was a bit like a remote walking tour. There were (and are) virtual tours of historic locations and cultural landmarks, too. Some were uploaded to YouTube by sites or maybe by visitors. Even from home, individuals could take a walking tour of The Great Wall of China, tour Buckingham Palace (from the BBC), or even virtually visit the Pyramids of Giza. VIRTUAL CONCERTS Virtual concerts didn’t necessarily involve headsets or anything high-tech, beyond, of course, an internet connection and a device. Usually concerts were live streamed and could be watched on different sites or platforms. They might require tickets, although some were free. Virtual concerts or live streaming concerts are still popular. In fact, Billboard compiled a list of all the upcoming concerts for those who want to watch their favorite artists perform. The list is updated periodically. EXPLORING THE WORLD WITH AUGMENTED REALITY AND VIRTUAL REALITY The pandemic also ushered in other types of immersive experiences to help students at home during Covid, and, hopefully, make learning from home a bit more exciting. There were apps that students could use to snap photos of flora and fauna in nature to find out more about them (including identification). Other apps like Skyview Lite allowed users to use their phone to look at the night sky for constellation information. Skyview will even find satellites! The Centers for Disease Control recently updated outdoor safety recommendations for vaccinated individuals. Some cities or states also might be relaxing guidelines as more individuals get vaccinated and Covid cases decrease. The entertainment industry may be ready for normalcy to return, as theaters and concert venues and other entertainment and cultural institutions either closed to the public or limited capacity. The popularity of immersive experiences like virtual reality likely increased in popularity during Covid (and even now), as the public needed safe forms of entertainment and venues needed to stay afloat. Virtual concerts and virtual tours and experiences continue to be offered, but what will the future hold for these immersive and alternative entertainment options? Has Covid changed the entertainment industry for good? Covid Pummels Entertainment When Covid hit the United States, many businesses that weren’t essential closed their doors to the public. For entertainment venues, restaurants, theaters and museums and other cultural venues, the halt in visitors meant finding other ways to stay financially secure. While some might have qualified for government assistance through relief programs like PPP, many also might have turned to alternative ways to continue to offer services to the public…safely. A pivot to online experiences became popular. Museums offered virtual tours or maybe even online classes; this helped them reach out to the public, and it also provided entertainment options to individuals stuck at home. Musicians and performance venues might have felt the full force of the shutdown. Some musicians hosted online concerts for fans. Others might have struggled. Movie theaters were hit hard. The Motley Fool reported that several smaller movie theaters shut down permanently because of Covid. And there is no telling how the future will look, or if people will want to congregate in masses in theaters even after Covid. The public might be spoiled with being able to pay for movies at home and enjoy them on the couch…without the pricey snacks. Streaming, Virtual Reality and Wired World of Entertainment While Americans and individuals across the globe were sitting at home, they needed to find ways to pass their time…when they weren’t working from home. Obviously, trips to museums and theaters were out of the picture. But the internet was full of possibilities. Entertainment went wired; it streamed, augmented and went virtual. Movie theaters might have been zapped of revenue, but streaming services were racking up subscribers. Netflix surged. And so did other subscription streaming services. Streaming Movies For the first time, new movies—those once anticipated for the big screen—could be premiered at home with a price much lower than a few movie tickets. Concessions were in the pantry or fridge. Have to go to the bathroom? The movie could be paused and restarted at the viewer’s convenience. There were no cell phones ringing. No kicks to the back of the chair. No chatty kids. Virtual Tours What about museums? They might have been closed to foot traffic, but visitors still had options. Virtual reality played a role in recreating the in-person experience at home. Some virtual experiences could have required a headset, but most were fully accessible online. Virtual didn’t necessarily translate to entering a virtual world (like with a headset) but simply experiencing a venue remotely. Museums like the Louvre and even historic locations like the Sistine Chapel let visitors take tours online at home. Navigation through the locations could be done with a mouse or maybe by touching the screen (if the user was on a tablet). Other museums might have offered guided virtual tours where a staff member took the viewer around the museum with the aid of a camera. This was a bit like a remote walking tour. There were (and are) virtual tours of historic locations and cultural landmarks, too. Some were uploaded to YouTube by sites or maybe by visitors. Even from home, individuals could take a walking tour of The Great Wall of China, tour Buckingham Palace (from the BBC), or even virtually visit the Pyramids of Giza. Virtual Concerts Virtual concerts didn’t necessarily involve headsets or anything high-tech, beyond, of course, an internet connection and a device. Usually concerts were live streamed and could be watched on different sites or platforms. They might require tickets, although some were free. Virtual concerts or live streaming concerts are still popular. In fact, Billboard compiled a list of all the upcoming concerts for those who want to watch their favorite artists perform. The list is updated periodically. Exploring the World with Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality The pandemic also ushered in other types of immersive experiences to help students at home during Covid, and, hopefully, make learning from home a bit more exciting. There were apps that students could use to snap photos of flora and fauna in nature to find out more about them (including identification). Other apps like Skyview Lite allowed users to use their phone to look at the night sky for constellation information. Skyview will even find satellites! Immersive Shopping Experiences Retail businesses also embraced immersive virtual experiences. Before Covid, many businesses already had an online presence. However, the pandemic likely made online visibility and accessibility much more important to survival. While not everyone was shopping for items beyond the essential, some consumers might have taken solace in scrolling through clothes or other items. Consumers might have jumped online to find casual clothes for the new work-from-home normal, too. For the automotive industry, online shopping really was not the norm before Covid. The shift to online car shopping for the consumer, though, probably wasn’t so new. Many car buyers used online resources to begin their car shopping experiences; in 2019, Cox Automotive reported that “Third-party sites are the top online source for both new and used buyers, with 80% of all car buyers visiting them during the shopping process.” During the pandemic, shoppers headed online to save time, too. According to an article by Kelley Blue Book that cited the “Car Buyer Journey Study, Pandemic Edition from Cox Automotive (which is KBB’s parent company):” “A total of 86 percent said they shopped online to save time at the dealership, during the pandemic.” Third-party sites, however, also might have improved their own content during the pandemic. Sites like RelayCars offered virtual and augmented reality showrooms that shoppers could use to preview their favorite cars before heading to the dealership. Virtual showrooms could be accessed via headset and an app available on Steam or just a regular device (via an app). While the virtual showroom provided cars in an online or virtual space, the augmented showroom gave users quite a different experience. Cars could be dropped into the user’s own space. This could be the driveway, a kitchen table or even the backyard. The car was visible via the device and the user could walk around the vehicle, look inside and update the car with a different paint hue. Immersive Experiences After the Pandemic While the pandemic is starting to subside as more individuals get vaccinated, the old normal could still be a distance away. The pandemic changed life abruptly, and some of these changes might just stick around. When life re-opens and gatherings can be held without worry (and without social distancing and masks), people may once again flock to concerts and festivals and even enjoy a movie. But will immersive experiences just die down? What the future holds remains to be seen. Some people might not feel comfortable being in big groups. Others may welcome normalcy. But virtual and augmented reality and the experiences they provide might continue to be embraced. The pandemic might have opened up a virtual world to those who had never experienced it. When virtual and online experiences were the norm, perhaps those bored at home sought them out…when they might not have done so before Covid. Virtual and augmented reality experiences may continue to flourish and be in demand. And consumers might like the idea of buying a ticket to a virtual event. Maybe virtual seats will be offered in the future. Perhaps concerts allow people to watch at home with a virtual ticket. But instead of just a television performance, maybe the experience is somehow more immersive. Maybe it’s even augmented. Place the musician anywhere! Unfortunately, no one really knows how normal will look after the pandemic. Things may go back to pre-Covid normalcy, or the world could become an interesting mix of real-life and virtual experiences. Before Covid, online shopping wasn’t new. However, the pandemic may have allowed consumers to realize that these online channels can decrease the time they spend finding the perfect item, especially when shopping for a new car. Virtual tourism also could become a trend. Virtual tours could provide accessibility to sites that some individuals couldn’t experience because of financial or other reasons. Maybe museums and cultural venues continue to offer these experiences as a means to reach a wider audience. As restrictions start to subside, we may soon understand how normal will look and if the public is breathing a sigh of relief from an unmasked face or still continuing to err on the side of caution six feet away. Old habits die hard, and life after Covid might be a mixture of relief and uncertainty. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Immersive-Shopping-Experiences.jpg] IMMERSIVE SHOPPING EXPERIENCES Retail businesses also embraced immersive virtual experiences. Before Covid, many businesses already had an online presence. However, the pandemic likely made online visibility and accessibility much more important to survival. While not everyone was shopping for items beyond the essential, some consumers might have taken solace in scrolling through clothes or other items. Consumers might have jumped online to find casual clothes for the new work-from-home normal, too. For the automotive industry, online shopping really was not the norm before Covid. The shift to online car shopping for the consumer, though, probably wasn’t so new. Many car buyers used online resources to begin their car shopping experiences; in 2019, Cox Automotive reported that “Third-party sites are the top online source for both new and used buyers, with 80% of all car buyers visiting them during the shopping process.” During the pandemic, shoppers headed online to save time, too. According to an article by Kelley Blue Book that cited the “Car Buyer Journey Study, Pandemic Edition from Cox Automotive (which is KBB’s parent company):” “A total of 86 percent said they shopped online to save time at the dealership, during the pandemic.” Third-party sites, however, also might have improved their own content during the pandemic. Sites like RelayCars offered virtual and augmented reality showrooms that shoppers could use to preview their favorite cars before heading to the dealership. Virtual showrooms could be accessed via headset and an app available on Steam or just a regular device (via an app). While the virtual showroom provided cars in an online or virtual space, the augmented showroom gave users quite a different experience. Cars could be dropped into the user’s own space. This could be the driveway, a kitchen table or even the backyard. The car was visible via the device and the user could walk around the vehicle, look inside and update the car with a different paint hue. IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCES AFTER THE PANDEMIC While the pandemic is starting to subside as more individuals get vaccinated, the old normal could still be a distance away. The pandemic changed life abruptly, and some of these changes might just stick around. When life re-opens and gatherings can be held without worry (and without social distancing and masks), people may once again flock to concerts and festivals and even enjoy a movie. But will immersive experiences just die down? What the future holds remains to be seen. Some people might not feel comfortable being in big groups. Others may welcome normalcy. But virtual and augmented reality and the experiences they provide might continue to be embraced. The pandemic might have opened up a virtual world to those who had never experienced it. When virtual and online experiences were the norm, perhaps those bored at home sought them out…when they might not have done so before Covid. Virtual and augmented reality experiences may continue to flourish and be in demand. And consumers might like the idea of buying a ticket to a virtual event. Maybe virtual seats will be offered in the future. Perhaps concerts allow people to watch at home with a virtual ticket. But instead of just a television performance, maybe the experience is somehow more immersive. Maybe it’s even augmented. Place the musician anywhere! Unfortunately, no one really knows how normal will look after the pandemic. Things may go back to pre-Covid normalcy, or the world could become an interesting mix of real-life and virtual experiences. Before Covid, online shopping wasn’t new. However, the pandemic may have allowed consumers to realize that these online channels can decrease the time they spend finding the perfect item, especially when shopping for a new car. Virtual tourism also could become a trend. Virtual tours could provide accessibility to sites that some individuals couldn’t experience because of financial or other reasons. Maybe museums and cultural venues continue to offer these experiences as a means to reach a wider audience. As restrictions start to subside, we may soon understand how normal will look and if the public is breathing a sigh of relief from an unmasked face or still continuing to err on the side of caution six feet away. Old habits die hard, and life after Covid might be a mixture of relief and uncertainty.

How to Make Money in the Gig Economy

How to Make Money in the Gig Economy

May 31, 2021

A little extra cash each month might help in paying off bills or simply having more money to allocate for weekly grocery runs—especially as inflation has hit food prices! Some individuals might not be in the market for a second job. Instead they might just want a “side hustle” in the gig economy to score and add to their monthly financial bottom line. But what is the ‘gig economy?’ This term applies to non-employee type jobs where workers are independent contractors, freelancers, etc. Want to know how to make money in the gig economy? Here is a list of options to consider. IS THE GIG ECONOMY THE RIGHT CHOICE? A side hustle job might not be a perfect fit for everyone. Those who want a consistent amount of money each month might not like the variance of the gig. And being a contractor means taking control of finances, including paying taxes. While employees have taxes taken out of each paycheck, gig workers are typically labeled as non-employees and, therefore, need to track their income and pay any applicable taxes (state, federal, local, etc.). Before jumping into the gig economy, individuals might want to talk to an accountant to find out their tax responsibilities (e.g. paying taxes quarterly) or any other responsibilities that go along with gig independence. Understanding these responsibilities also may help individuals determine if ‘gigging’ is the right choice. DRIVE FOR MORE MONEY: ALL ABOUT UBER & LYFT Signing on as a rideshare driver for companies like Uber and Lyft is a very popular gig. Obviously, a car is required for this gig. However, both Uber and Lyft let drivers rent a car through their service. Uber notes that its rentals also include insurance and maintenance, too. How much drivers earn via rideshare driving could depend on a lot of factors. Location could impact income, and how much time drivers spend as a rideshare driver obviously would play a part, too. Reputation also matters. How well a driver treats passengers, the cleanliness of the car and other aspects of the drive could impact ratings. Great ratings could lead to more customers. Tips also add to income. Drivers also may deal with more wear on their vehicles. This could lead to more tire expenses, mechanical repairs, etc. However, Lyft notes on its site that “We’re expanding Lyft Driver Centers, Lyft Mobile Service, and our Openbay partnership to lower the costs of vehicle service.” Before settling on a gig, individuals might wish to research all their different options. Find out what each opportunity entails, and know about any liabilities, too. For example, rideshare insurance options apply to rideshare drivers. Investopedia has a list of all the available rideshare insurance plans for drivers who want to embark on this gig. Before driving for any company, make sure insurance needs are covered. Investopedia also notes that personal insurance won’t cover drivers on-the-job. DELIVER DOOR-TO-DOOR Doordash, Uber Eats, Grubhub and other companies use gig workers to deliver food, packages, groceries, etc. to customers. Individuals interested in delivering can check out different companies to find the best opportunity for their needs. In addition, drivers can work for multiple companies. So you may be able to drive for Grubhub and Doordash, too. Again, though, tips and other income need to be tracked! BE A STUDY PARTICIPANT Yes, different surveys and studies can help individuals earn extra income. UserTesting pays individuals to participate in product tests. Individuals have to answer questions to determine if they are a fit for a particular test. Pay is $10 per test (the company notes that it takes 20 minutes). However, live interviews are paid at a higher rate ($30 to $120). There are also several other companies that pay individuals to test. The Balance provides a list of opportunities! How to Make Money in the Gig Economy [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/shutterstock_365609573.jpg] RENT YOUR HOME OR CAR A home or car can become the ticket to extra income. Those who have a home or car to spare might just use them for a side hustle. Airbnb lets individuals rent out their homes for others on vacation, holiday or just need a place to crash. Neighbor is a little more unique in that homeowners can actually rent out their garage, driveways or other spaces. However, before signing up on Airbnb, homeowners should research any laws in their area or mandates from their homeowners association (HOA) that could prohibit their home from being used as a rental. The same recommendation applies to renting out spaces like driveways. For example, some HOA’s forbid pickup trucks or other vehicles. Turo is a car sharing company that allows vehicle owners to use their car as a rental. Others can access the car for their needs. In return, car owners are paid for the use of their car. Visit Turo’s site to learn about listing a car. How much can individuals make via Turo? According to the company’s site, those who list one car can potentially earn about $10,516 a year. This is noted as the yearly average. However, remember that earnings may vary based on different factors. FREELANCE THOSE TALENTS Writers and other freelancers can make money on their talents, too. There are several freelance platforms like Fiverr and Upwork where freelancers can sign up to earn extra cash.  Visit the sites to learn more about how to sign up and find gigs! Of course, freelancers also can visit job boards online to find other opportunities. Freelance writers, for example, can find gigs via the site Freelance Writing Gigs, which posts new opportunities daily. Just remember to track all income for tax reporting! All the Other Odd Jobs Not a writer, editor or creative? Don’t want to take on driving gigs or rent out a home or vehicle? There are many more jobs out there for gig work! For those ‘odd’ jobs that don’t fit into the above categories, check out TaskRabbit. On TaskRabbit, interested individuals can tackle deliveries or even errands. Projects can include cleaning gigs, assembling furniture, hanging a mirror and more! Find the jobs that fit a particular talent or interest! TRANSCRIBE FOR MONEY Want to work from home? Transcribing as a side gig could be an option. Individuals who are bilingual or speak multiple languages could sign up for Gengo to translate content for businesses. Per Gengo, translators earn $417 per month (on average). Translators also can choose their gigs. Freelancers also can sign up for Rev transcribing content. Like Gengo, Rev lets freelancers choose their gigs. Pay is weekly and via PayPal. Rev’s site notes that pay is between $0.30 to $1.10 per audio/video minute. There are so many opportunities for individuals to make extra money in the gig economy. However, the best gig is the one that meets the individual’s needs and can accommodate their schedule. Gigs are usually side jobs; sometimes these freelance gigs are in addition to full-time employment to supplement income and other times the gig is the only gig. Before signing up for an opportunity, research any requirements and understand other obligations, too (like insurance needs, extra maintenance costs, etc.). Make sure the gig doesn’t conflict with HOA policies or the policies of a current employer, too! And, of course, track all that income (including tips) and understand all tax responsibilities as a freelancer/gig worker! [https://contentgm.s3.us-west-2.amazonaws.com/content_uploads/App%5CDynamicModules%5CItem/47200/gig-economy-RELAY-CARS.png]