News: E-Commerce Gets an Augmented Reality Upgrade for Mobile Web Platforms from Vertebrae & Shopify

E-Commerce Gets an Augmented Reality Upgrade for Mobile Web Platforms from Vertebrae & Shopify

Two companies armed with web-based augmented reality tools, Vertebrae and Shopify, are ready to help online retailers boost their sales.

It takes some real backbone to wear certain styles of hats in public, so it is fitting that Tenth Street Hats partnered with Vertebrae to integrate a virtual try-on feature for its website using their mobile AR platform.

Image via Vertebrae

Starting today, visitors to the Tenth Street Hats website can try on the Dakota hat in augmented reality, with the entire catalog rolling out by the end of October. The implementation is similar to virtual try-on features for ARKit apps, with a "Try It On in AR" button for activating the AR experience (once camera permissions are accepted, of course).

"E-commerce, by nature, allows us to have a direct relationship with our customers," says Carson Finkle, CEO at Tenth Street Hats, in statement. "We are always looking for better ways to improve the customer experience and relationship. We are very excited about our partnership with Vertebrae, as their AR technology accomplishes this via the ability to virtually try on our hats. We want our customers to feel confident in their purchases before they make them. With a presence online and in brick-and-mortar it's important to support both in a comfortable and comprehensive shopping experience. Embracing the intersection of technology and fashion will help propel us as a leading fashion brand in the country."

Vertebrae uses its facial recognition technology to place 3D models of hats on customers' heads. To extend the experience to the full catalog, Vertebrae installs an AR web browser integration on the retailer's website. While the try-on tool exists on the webstore, Tenth Street Hats could conceivably use the 3D models in web AR advertising campaigns or in sponsored AR experiences on Snapchat or Facebook.

"The worlds of physical and digital retail are blending, and AR provides retailers interactive ways for consumers to shop for products online," said Vertebrae founder and CEO Vince Cacace. "Mobile specifically has been a problem in terms of online conversions and we built this platform with that in mind. Augmented commerce creates a better shopping experience, leading to increased conversion. For consumers, AR creates a more contextual and personalized shopping experience that makes the products they are considering come to life outside of a flat web page."

Images by Tommy Palladino/Next Reality

In practice, though, the experience is not as precise as the AR face masks on Snapchat or Facebook. For me, the cutout of the hat is conspicuously noticeable at some angles, and my head pops through the top of the hat at other angles. Granted, I had just gotten back from the gym, so sweat reflecting off my bald head may have skewed the results. (I don't think the Dakota is for me anyway, as I've embraced my baldness.)

When Vertebrae's AR platform launched exactly a year ago, it broke new ground for web-based, markerless AR experiences that work on iOS and Android. Now, with ARKit 2.0 bringing its AR Quick Look feature for mobile web (and Google working to bring similar functionality through ARCore), the floodgates have opened for markerless web-based AR.

Shopify is one of the companies striking quickly to take advantage of AR Quick Look as an e-commerce tool. After previewing it during the beta period for iOS 12, the company launched its Shopify AR platform on Monday, coinciding with the official release of iOS 12. With AR Quick Look, the company makes it easy for businesses to share 3D models of their products with their customers in augmented reality.

Image by Shopify/YouTube

"Web-powered augmented reality represents an exciting leap toward making AR experiences readily available to the everyday shopper through mobile browsers," wrote Daniel Beauchamp, head of AR & VR at Shopify, in a blog post.

Targeting the platform to small businesses, the company shared the AR tools with a select group of customers who use their e-commerce platform for their webstores. One of those partners, Jordan Schau, co-founder of Pure Cycles, summed up the potential for quick AR growth for e-commerce with the ubiquity of the web:

"Getting someone to download an app [with AR capabilities], and then use that as their main shopping app offers major friction for the user. But having it just baked into the browser—Safari, which is already taking an increasing share of our traffic—I think it's just going explode."

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Cover image via YouTube/Shopify

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