In the first wave of AR innovation in digital commerce, augmented reality experience mostly live inside native apps, like those on offer from Amazon and Zara. AR designed to work in any web browser versus an environment is far more scalable, NexTech founder and CEO Evan Gappelberg told Sourcing Journal. It also levels the tech playing field for any business, large or small, that wants to offer rich 3-D product imagery to customers.
Building a virtual try-on experience is a natural progression for NexTech, which holds three patents in addition to two that are pending. Gappelberg said interest in AR e-commerce is rising because it’s still so difficult to know exactly what you’re getting when shopping online—a key reason the majority of retail sales still occur in physical stores.
For its first foray into virtual fitting features, NexTech is focusing on products worn on the face and head, like hats, earrings and sunglasses. The firm’s sentiment-based technology employs Watson’s machine learning algorithms to aid in deciphering facial expressions that indicate how the consumer is feeling. NexTech will conduct live sampling of consumers’ facial expressions to learn more about sentiment’s role in commerce and to “prompt shopper actions such as ‘buy’” when their sentiment indicates they’re pleased with the product in question.
Gappelberg described the facial tracking technology as a “stepping stone” as it moves “aggressively” to launch full-body clothing try-ons. Most people are familiar with finding their best face in their camera app, thanks to our selfie-loving culture, he said, but getting a full-body view from a smartphone or desktop computer requires a bit more practice.
Today, of the roughly 4 billion mobile phones on this planet, only about 20 percent are AR-enabled, Gappelberg said, but NexTech allows retailers to bypass those technical requirements and offer AR for anyone with a browser. The market for AR and virtual reality is poised to reach $202.9 billion by 2022, according to data from Statista.