Technology is always evolving, and some predict the world of retail could be totally different in years to come. Microsoft thinks that holograms and augmented reality technology are the future of retail and they predict it’s only a matter of time until this is commonplace in all mainstream shops. What will going shopping look like in the future? Continue reading for an article found on Wired.
Microsoft wants to take holograms for business mainstream. Stood in the middle of a construction site of a half-finished department store, the manager changes the site’s blueprint with a gesture of her thumb and finger. Switching door frames from one side of the room to another, the manager walks over to her newly-inserted door frame to inspect more closely. The store manager is wearing Microsoft’s HoloLens headset, and soon, Microsoft thinks this will be the future of retail.
“I was immediately drawn in by how liberating this technology is,” says Leila Martine, director of new devices at Microsoft. “I knew this was the tech I wanted to dedicate my career to.” Martine, who spoke at WIRED Retail 2017, began her career at Microsoft in 2001 and was first introduced to the HoloLens in 2014. Microsoft’ early gamble was to shun virtual reality in favour of augmented reality, letting people interact with the real world around them.
What this means is that retailers have a playground to do things they have never done before. It’s like giving you super powers
In January 2015, Microsoft announced the existence of HoloLens for Developers. “I remember it was such a surprise to the market because nobody was expecting it” she says. At $3,000 (£2,719), the price was steep. Retailers and businesses needed it to be more scalable. “They were interested by it but wanted more commercial capabilities,” Martine says. So, Microsoft began to expand the technology to make it adaptable for businesses as well as for developers wanting to build 3D software.
The new HoloLens Commercial kit has been in the UK market for a year, letting retailers envision their product or shop layout before it has even been built. The aim is to give businesses the level of detailed analytics provided by online shopping platforms, but for their physical store. Sensor technology can track the eye movement of customers to provide realtime feedback on preferred displays and items. “You can go figure out which potato chip goes by which chips, supported by empirical evidence,” Martine says.
But what about Microsoft’s competitors? Apple, Google and Samsung are pouring huge resources into virtual and augmented reality, while Magic Leap – which is yet to launch a product – is aiming for an $8 billion valuation. This doesn’t phase Martine, however, who argues that prearranged sensors are needed for these models to work. “We are still the only self-contained holographic computer,” she adds. For now.
I was immediately drawn in by how liberating this technology is
For Martine, the ability for retailers to provide their customers with a real example of a product, inspired by the analytics they provided, is the HoloLens’s most exciting feature. Microsoft has partnered with Lowe’s to do just that. Customers can choose a selection of their dream kitchen designs, and then go in store to test them out as a hologram, editing the design where they see fit. “We are seeing more of marketing and engineering working together, because it is ultimately one asset,” she says. Microsoft has also worked with Volvo to use HoloLens at trade shows to help market new vehicles. “There is a lot of utility in 3D models when you start to put it into organisational workflow,” Martine says.
Yet there is still a lot to do. Microsoft will continue to work closely with brands to ensure they understand how to best use the holographic technology. “It will only be when we can get companies using HoloLens deeply, that we will change from being interesting to being a necessity.”