Interview • 17.10.2018

"I see augmented reality leading the way in the store"

Augmented and virtual reality shopping

Not only do augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) promise an exhilarating entertainment experience, they are also already practically applied in several industry sectors. What opportunities do they offer retailers and customers? What are the current and future applications and use cases? Dr. Jonathan Harth of the Witten / Herdecke University shares his assessment of these technologies with us.

Dr. Jonathan Harth of the Witten / Herdecke University with VR-glasses;...
Dr. Jonathan Harth of the Witten / Herdecke University
Source: Universität Witten/Herdecke, Jonathan Harth

You are a sociologist who studies Buddhism, among other things. Where does your interest in AR and VR technologies come from?

Addressing the question of how computers and digitization affect our society is my favorite subject, which I found out many years ago. VR and AR technologies are among the factors. Over the past years, I have focused my research, publications, and teaching in this area.

Earlier this year, you were even asked to act as an advisor to the Federal Government of Germany.

That’s right, along with other professionals. The Association of German Engineers (VDI) invited researchers and science experts on behalf of the Office of Technology Assessment (Büro für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung)at the German Bundestag. The objective was to assess the measures needed to support the new technologies and analyze the potential risks if they are applied on a larger scale.

What was your advice to the Federal Government?

We proposed that the government should consider ways to promote Germany as a business location, particularly in light of the fact that these technologies are predominantly developed, produced and utilized by American companies.

VR and AR are on everyone’s mind these days but are these types of media actually being used?

Although the hype has died down somewhat and some have come to realize that VR has not caught on as fast as they hoped, there are many companies that already use both VR and AR prototypes. AR, in particular, hints at great potential. Generally speaking, a lot of thought is given to the possibilities of this medium at the moment. Having said that, AR hardware is still not as advanced as VR glasses.

What makes VR experiences so exhilarating?

What makes the VR medium so new and unique is the way it can create a presence, that is to say it gives you the feeling of being in a different place. Even though the user continues to be at home, in the office, or in a public space with his/her real body, his/her sensory and audiovisual systems experience a different location. Since the display makes up the entire field of view and users can move their head and body as they normally do, they forget the real environment and perceive the virtual environment as the one that’s real. Sometimes this goes as far looking down in the simulated environment and seeing a different body. There are no limits to the virtual world except for the limited imagination of the designers.

What are some practical applications and uses for VR?

Apart from entertainment uses, VR is primarily used in training and instruction settings. In the medical realm, VR simulations are designed to help prepare physicians or surgeons for emergencies. By training specific procedures in the virtual environment, specialists can then recall them more readily in an emergency. The military has actually used VR simulations since the 1990s.

Architects benefit from VR because it allows them to virtually review spatial settings using stereoscopic viewing via glasses. How does a ceiling height of four meters compare to three-and-a- half meters? There is no need to imagine it because you can literally experience it with VR. VR is used for industrial manufacturing processes in a similar fashion.

“Things you had to previously visualize what they might look like, can now be made tangible and realistic thanks to virtual technologies." (Dr. Harth)

Woman in electronics shop with VR glasses; copyright: iXtenso...
Source: iXtenso

How is VR technology used in retail?

IKEA was quite fast in offering its VR Kitchen Planner. Other furniture stores also allow customers to enter the dimensions of their homes, position the furniture pieces in a virtual replica of their home and subsequently purchase the items. That’s how VR makes shopping at home possible. I think this will have a strong impact.

What if the retailer wants to use VR in the store?

In this case, retailers must create designated in-store areas where customers can use VR without bumping into furniture or disturbing other customers while they shop. Having said that, the technology helps retailers to attract people to the stores thanks to an amazing experience. Ideally, the experience also perfectly matches the theme or product.

What about augmented reality use in retail?

Unlike VR, which is location-based, AR enables mobile use for the user. With AR, the user continues to see the real environment and can use it for orientation.

In fact, that’s why I see AR technology leading the way in the retail business. Today's augmented reality applications are run with a smartphone or tablet because the matching glasses are not available yet. Customers in the store could see themselves wearing new pants by using their tablet or smartphone.

Is that the future of AR?

No. Tablet-based AR is definitely not the end of the line, but rather a tool that hints at how AR will reshape the future. One of these days, regular eyeglasses might display additional information, hence augmented reality. And unlike VR, the user perceives his environment and his fellow human beings in this setting. This turns a shopping trip with friends or family into an entirely different experience than a quick excursion into virtual reality. If hardware developers successfully develop AR glasses to bring them to the mass consumer market, I predict a greater social impact for this technology.

In the case of VR ...

… the experience is presently clearly the greatest appeal because many people still have not tried this medium yet. It's always remarkable and fascinating to see the power of virtual reality when someone puts on VR glasses for the first time. Needless to say, this feeling is fleeting as time goes by. However, it can be a very powerful tool for retailers in addressing a specific group or age bracket with a well-made, targeted VR experience that gives customers an added benefit.

Older woman with VR glasses at home on the armchair; copyright:...
Source: panthermedia.net / Sanda Stanca

Do you use VR yourself?

I definitely use it from time to time, but not nearly as often as I would have thought. It requires more effort than watching a movie, for example, because I have to use my body and I definitely also need the respective space to do it. VR is a truly amazing technology and I am quite certain it won’t go away anytime soon.

Interview: Julia Pott; iXtenso – Magazine for Retailers

related articles:

popular articles:

Thumbnail-Photo: Implementing new ideas: Design thinking in the retail world...
29.04.2019   #customer satisfaction #trend research

Implementing new ideas: Design thinking in the retail world

Focus on customer expectations

It may be uncomfortable at times – but a change in perspective can help businesses to implement new ideas and successfully complete ongoing processes. Design thinking is a customer-centric approach that can help in this endeavor.“What do ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Brand  Marketing Summit
19.03.2019   #event #marketing

Brand Marketing Summit

Map your customers journey and engage at the right time

The Brand Marketing Summit (25th-26th June, London) is the must attend event for those looking to reinvent their marketing and engage their customers. Knowing your customer and their journey has become essential to delivering customer engagement. ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Good news for brick and mortar retailers
08.03.2019   #brick and mortar retail #in-store marketing

Good news for brick and mortar retailers

71 percent of shoppers are spending more in-store than online

Both men and women are spending significantly more in-store than online during a typical shopping visit according to a new report, by First Insight, Inc. The company, which recently surveyed consumers on shopping habits, purchase behavior and ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Students create packaging of the future
07.03.2019   #sustainability #design

Students create packaging of the future

Annual design competition PIDA

What will a sustainable and exciting packaging concept look like in 2030? Most likely we will see many and innovative answers to that question at PIDA (Packaging Impact Design Award), the international design competition arranged and hosted by ...

Thumbnail-Photo: DOOH displays are engaging
01.04.2019   #digital signage #Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH)

DOOH displays are engaging

Consumers to seek out more information after seeing digital signage

The majority of U.S. consumers notice out-of-home digital video displays, according to “On-Site Insights,” a new study from Edison Research. In today’s media landscape where it is increasingly challenging for brands to reach ...

Thumbnail-Photo: 2nd World Retail Forum, Amsterdam
07.03.2019   #event #artificial intelligence

2nd World Retail Forum, Amsterdam

The latest developments in the industry

World Retail Forum is a platform for retail professionals from across the globe to come together, share experiences and learn from top industry leaders and retail gurus. ...

Thumbnail-Photo: The Guinness Storehouse in Dublin – a powerful customer magnet...
14.03.2019   #customer satisfaction #customer relationship management

The Guinness Storehouse in Dublin – a powerful customer magnet

Brand advertising with taps, creamy whitecaps, and hashtags

Just in time for Saint Patrick's Day, we turn our attention to arguably the favorite drink of the Irish: the iconic Guinness beer. Or, more precisely, the home of the stout: the Guinness Storehouse opened its doors in 2000 right in the heart of ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Digital Marketing Forum
22.02.2019   #software developement #event

Digital Marketing Forum

Comprehensive, neutral, scientifically accompanied, critical

At the Digital Marketing Forum (DMF) on 06. and 07.03.2019 at the Stuttgart Media University, 18 proven experts from science and practice will explain the current status of methods, techniques and tools in digital marketing.With its program the DMF ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Computer-generated imagery: better and faster product photography for...
12.04.2019   #online trading #digital marketing

Computer-generated imagery: better and faster product photography for online stores

David Wischniewski on the possibilities of product visualization

Product photography is essential to the success of any online store. Unable to provide haptic feedback, retailers are tasked with inspiring their customers to buy. This can be an expensive endeavor in the long run. Digitally created renderings of ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Award-worthy product presentations – Point of purchase displays...
08.05.2019   #pos marketing #displays

Award-worthy product presentations – Point of purchase displays

The 2019 POPAI Awards finalists in our photo gallery

This year’s POPAI Awards finalists prove that retail displays can do more than just grab the attention of consumers.Today’s displays not only reflect the overall customer journey, but also focus on storytelling and digital elements.The ...

Supplier

Westiform GmbH & Co. KG
Westiform GmbH & Co. KG
Kinzigtalstrasse 2
77799 Ortenberg